Tuesday, April 14

"Autism: Current Understanding of Trends and Causes"

A discussion with

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, PhD

Professor of Epidemiology
UC Davis

Tuesday April 14 2009
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

Autism Links:

  • KQED QUEST produced this excellent segment featuring Dr. Hertz-Picciotto (link)
  • An in-depth and exceptional discussion on autism by someone with autism: CSU Professor Temple Gandin (link)
  • Several video lectures by autism thought leaders on a range of related topics (link)

Autism is a brain disorder that profoundly affects a person’s ability to communicate, respond appropriately to the environment, and form relationships with others.  Autism has an onset before age thee and can have a wide ranging effect on development.  Many persons with autism are severely affected with no means of communicating with others.  Other persons considered “high functioning” are mainstreamed in school, attend college, and maintain employment.

In California, the number of reported cases of autism has increased substantially since the early 1990s.  While there is evidence for a genetic predisposition, genetics do not fully explain the increasing prevalence. 

Since so much remains to be learned about autism, controversies abound.  Are the rates truly increasing or is the apparent rise due to greater awareness and better diagnosis? What are the causes of autism?  How much is due to genetics and how much to environment?  Do vaccines play a role?  Is it purely a neuropathology or are other systems involved?  Can we intervene to prevent autism or reduce the severity?  What are the promising lines of research?

Join epidemiologist Irva Hertz-Picciotto for a look at these important questions and a discussion of the current understanding of this complicated disorder.  Hertz-Picciotto is a Professor at the UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences and Deputy Director of the Center for Children’s Environmental Health.

Hertz-Picciotto received her PhD and MPH from UC Berkeley in epidemiology.  She then spent 12 years on the faculty at UNC Chapel Hill before joining the faculty at Davis.  She also serves on the editorial boards for the American Journal of Epidemiology, Environmental Health Perspectives and Epidemiology.