Cortical neuronal networks as seen (and drawn) by Santiago Ramon y Cajal.
The causes of autism continue to baffle both scientists and clinicians (to say nothing of patients and their families). We’ve even moved away from discussing a disease called ‘autism’ towards a much more nebulous aggregate of conditions now referred to as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Martin Raff offers a concise summary of progress in trying to understand the genetic basis of ASD, the usefulness of animal models, and the importance of non-genetic factors. Raff became interested in autism when his grandson was diagnosed with the condition, and so he offers the valuable perspective of a senior scientist who is nonetheless an outsider in this field:
“Some of the most interesting questions in biology today, in my view, derive from the real advances in neuropsychiatry that have come largely from human genetics. Research in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) has been leading the way, mainly because it has become especially well funded and has recently attracted many outstanding scientists.”