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Manage episode 290100940 series 1111428
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Prof Grainne McAlonan, Professor of Translational Neuroscience in the Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Sciences at King's College London. Synopsis: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is clinically diverse, and its etiological mechanisms are poorly understood. To inform prognosis and generate intervention opportunities we need a better understanding of causal pathways; and subsequently, a means to examine target engagement. There is fresh hope however, based on evidence that multiple risk factors for ASD and related neurodevelopmental conditions converge to disrupt the balance between excitatory glutamate (E) and inhibitory GABA (I). This will likely alter the activity and structure of brain circuits which underpin (especially social) cognition and behaviour. Professor McAlonon’s research is directly testing this hypothesis by using MRI to examine spontaneous functional activity and microstructure in the brain of neonates with and without vulnerabilities for neurodevelopmental disorders. Her research has also begun to investigate whether E/I differences persist into adulthood in ASD, and if they are ‘responsive’ to pharmacological modulation. In her keynote talk, Professor McAlonan will share some of her early progress in these areas. Biography: Professor Grainne McAlonan studied Medicine at University of Cambridge and Imperial College London and completed a PhD in Behavioural Neuroscience at University of Cambridge. After clinical and research posts in the UK, she worked for over a decade in The University of Hong Kong before returning to the IoPPN. She uses MRI as a translational tool to link brain and behaviour in people with neurodevelopmental conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); and to ‘back’ (and ‘forward’) translate to laboratory models. Her current research is informed by her work in the National ADHD and Autism Service for Adults at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) and she is Clinical Disorders Cluster Lead for the NIHR-Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre. Professor McAlonan is a group leader within the MRC Centre for Neurodevelopmental Disorders at IoPPN and is a lead investigator within the EU-AIMS-2-TRIALS consortium – a European network hosting the world’s largest grant for autism research. She is responsible for fetal/neonatal/infant brain imaging studies of children vulnerable to neurodevelopmental conditions and for pharmacology studies in adults with ASD.