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A UCSD Professor Seeks the Cause of Autism


Aired 4/19/09

Tom Fudge: Autism is a mystery that has bedeviled thousands if not millions of parents in this country. It's a condition that can severely impact a person's ability to communicate and relate to other people. The fact that its cause, not to mention its cure, remains a mystery has made parents of autistic kids desperate for answers. That desperation has resulted in a large body of rumor and myth about the disease. Many people still suspect that it's caused by vaccinations even though scientific studies have debunked that theory.

While autism has been a hard nut to crack, some studies have provided insight into what might cause the disease. Eric Courchesne, a medical professor at UCSD, is one of the leading researchers into autism and its causes. Several years ago, he observed that the brains of autistic children are smaller than normal at birth, then grow at a very rapid rate during the first couple of years of life. Now he's involved in a new study that seeks to look deeper into the brains of the autistic. The hope is to actually identify genes that either cause, or are closely associated with autism.


  • Eric Courchesne, professor of neurosciences at the UCSD School of Medicine. He's director of medicine and director of the Autism Center of Excellence at UCSD.
  • Laura Schreibman, professor of psychology at UCSD Author of The Science and Fiction of Autism.

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