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Recap: 2024 Annual Research Symposium




The BAAC hosted its 2024 Annual Research Symposium on Friday, March 1, 2024 at the UCSF Nancy Friend Pritzker Auditorium. We saw a turnout of over 110 attendees, and we heard from 5 faculty speakers, 6 panelists, 4 trainee speakers, and over 3 dozen poster presenters!


Our day began with welcoming remarks by Dr. Lawrence Fung (BAAC President) and Dr. Matthew State (Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UCSF).



We heard about "Current Challenges in Autism Diagnostic Assessment: Managing extreme heterogeneity in developmental level, symptom presentation, and support needs among contemporary referral populations" from Dr. Somer Bishop (UCSF).


Our keynote speaker, Dr. Sergiu Pasca (Stanford), then spoke on "Constructing and deconstructing the human nervous system."


Our morning wrapped up with Dr. Mirko Uljarevic (Stanford) presenting on "Advancing understanding of autism through the development of novel assessments."


Midday, nearly 40 students and trainees of all levels presented their posters during our poster session. Symposium attendees checked out the posters, enjoyed lunch, and caught up with colleagues. By popular vote, Nishant Chadha's poster on "Mutations in autism risk genes reveal disrupted protein-protein interaction network and altered  neurodevelopment" won the best poster prize.


























In the afternoon, we heard from Dr. Helen Willsey (UCSF) on "Using Frogs to Dissect Autism Genetics."


Subsequently, we learned about "The Autism Phenome Project: Identifying Clinically Meaningful Subgroups of Autism" from Dr. Christine Wu Nordahl (UC Davis).


We then transitioned to our panel: "Dramatic increase in prevalence of autism - What is the magnitude of this observation? What are the implications in research and clinical care?" Our panelists (seated in front row in photo below) spoke on the following topics:

  • Young Shin Kim (UCSF) Prevalence vs. incidence; selected literature on prevalence of autism

  • Jill Escher (Escher Fund for Autism) - Evidence for true increase in prevalence of autism

  • Alexander MacInnis (Independent researcher and parent) - How to know the true increase in rate of occurrence

  • Greg Yates (AASCEND) - Social factors making sparseness-adaptive autism more visible

  • Marjorie Solomon (UC Davis) - Research implications in assessments 

  • Antonio Hardan (Stanford) - Research implications in treatments

Attendees then self sorted into breakout discussion groups. The first group discussed increasing rates of autism, the second group discussed social factors influencing the determination of prevalence, while the last group discussed research implications in the field of autism. After these breakout discussions, everyone came back together to share what they had discussed.



We finished our day off with four selected oral presentations from trainees. We heard from Kaeli Vandemark (UC Berkeley) on "Rescue of degraded tactile coding in the Scn2a mouse model of ASD using CRISPRa gene therapy," Olivia Surgent (UC Davis) on "Sex-specific relationships between fine motor skills and striatal structural features in autistic children," Presley Pham (UCSF) on "Autism spectrum disorder risk genes demonstrate molecular convergence," and Lacey Chetcuti (Stanford) on "Characterizing Predictors of Response to Early Behavioral Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Meta-Analytic Approach."


Overall, it was a wonderful day getting Bay Area autism researchers together to share and discuss research. We hope to see everyone again next year!






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