|Name Eric Courchesne|
Dr eric courchesne explains the underlying brain biology of autism
Eric Courchesne is an autism researcher and Professor of Neurosciences in University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Director of the UCSD Autism Center located in La Jolla, California.
- Dr eric courchesne explains the underlying brain biology of autism
- Carta human origins lessons from autism spectrum disorders eric courchesne
- Scientific contributions
- Impact on society
Carta human origins lessons from autism spectrum disorders eric courchesne
Courchesne is a graduate of the University of California, where he obtained his BA in Zoology from UC Berkeley in 1970 and his PhD from UC San Diego in Neurosciences in 1975. He completed two post-doctoral appointments at Stanford University in the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology. Courchesne contracted polio at age 3 and was initially unable to stand or walk. He has said in interviews contracting polio got him interested in neuroscience. Despite his contraction of polio, he went on to excel in gymnastics and was nominated for the Nissin Award in gymnastics, presented with the Jake Gimble Award for Scholastic and Athletic Achievement, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Scholarship in the Neurosciences. He currently lives in San Diego, California with his wife, also an autism researcher, Karen Pierce, PhD, and their family. Scientifically, Courchesne’s contribution has led to over 180 publications on the topic of autism and has been included in national and international news coverage. He has received several awards such as the San Diego Health Hero Award. His research is supported by multiple organizations including the National Institute of Health, Autism Speaks, and the Simons Foundation.
Courchesne made his initial major contribution to autism research in 1988 when he published one of the first neuroimaging studies of autism in the New England Journal of Medicine, demonstrating that autism involves developmental brain defects in the cerebellum and is definitively a neural biological disorder of early development and not a psychological disorder. A decade later Dr. Courchesne demonstrated that autism is also a disorder of brain growth. His 2001 Neurology paper on this topic is a landmark structural MRI paper and was republished on its 10th anniversary by Neurology because of its major impact on many subsequent studies aimed at understanding the anatomical developmental bases of autism. Courchesne’s body of research has led to the theory that autism is a disorder with a unique brain growth trajectory that includes early brain overgrowth during the toddler years, arrest of brain growth during childhood and possible degeneration during adulthood.
In 2011, Courchesne and his colleagues discovered a 67% excess of neurons in prefrontal cortex in young males with autism and demonstrated that this excess co-occurs with excess postmortem brain weight. This finding, published in JAMA, not only helped to explain why most of all autistic 2- to 16-year-old postmortem male brains exceed normal average, but that prenatal mechanisms regulating the number of neurons may be implicated in the etiology of autism. This study thus cast doubt on the idea that autism is caused by postnatal events such as vaccines.
Impact on society
Courchesne began in the field of autism over 30 years ago, at a time when autism was poorly understood and awareness was low at the community level. Courchesne’s major findings of cerebellar abnormalities and dysregulation of brain growth have been replicated by many independent research groups and form the foundation of many theories and research studies on autism.
He continues to give lectures and keynote addresses at a variety of scientific conferences worldwide such as the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) and the Asia Pacific Autism Conference. He donates his time to the San Diego autism community and serves on the board of directors of the National Foundation for Autism Research (NFAR), an organization which supports local programs designed to improve the quality of life for individuals with autism and their families.