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Fostering our Phds research

International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) 2014

Oral Presentations


Jamie Horder

A visual perceptual task provides evidence for an excitatory: inhibitory imbalance in Adults with Autism


Andreina Mendez

Abnormalities in subcortical glutamate/glutamine, but not GABA in Adults with an ASD


Poster presentations


Derek Andrews

An MRI Investigation of Neuroanatomical Differences in High Functioning Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Using Non-Parametric Cluster Based Statistics

Through May 14th to 17th 2014 I was able to attend the International Meeting For Autism Research (IMFAR) in Atlanta, GA. This meeting provided me the opportunity to share neuroimaging research conducted for my MSc thesis project, a collaboration between The Departments of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Sciences (FANS) and Neuroimaging Sciences at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King’s College London (KCL). This IMFAR offered the opportunity to network with several individuals researching Autism Spectrum Disorders from a variety of angles. This year’s meeting’s importance was recognized by the President of the United States Barack Obama who thanked and expressed his gratitude to all those in attendance, writing that “events like (IMFAR) pace the way for breakthroughs in detection, intervention, and education that can help those affected better prepare for their bright future.”

The conference was opened by a keynote address from the head of the FANS Department and Sackler Institute for Translational Neurodevelopment, Professor Declan Murphy. Professor Murphy eloquently expressed how novel biomarkers that can be used both as diagnostic markers and empirical prognostic measures of treatment outcome are needed within ASD. This was particularly relevant to my own work which focuses on identify imaging biomarkers in ASD. The point of Professor Murphy’s address would be felt throughout the meeting as the lack of biomarkers in the disorder was very clear. This served to inspire me strive further in my own research with the realization that I have the opportunity to make large contributions to the field of ASD research.

Towards the end of the meeting, Peter Bell accepted the lifetime Advocacy Award. Peter outlined his top ten wishes for ASD researchers, to me one in particular continues to stand out in my mind. Peter asked “Science can hurry, please hurry”. After years of advocating for his eldest son who has a diagnosis of ASD Peter’s message filled me with a great sense of responsibility and efficacy within my field of study. This feeling which will surely stay with me for the duration of my career.


Hannah Hayward

Traits of autism spectrum disorder and co- occurring mental health problems among prisoners


Abigail Thompson

A 'bottom- up' approach to Autism Spectrum Disorder


Robert Wichers

Correlation between cerebellar white neuroanatomy and a motor coordination task in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Mental Capacities and Legal Responsibilities

Dr Penelope Brown

Oral presentation

Conceptualising Fitness to Plead

"Fitness to Plead" is a fundamental but understudied concept that lies at the intersection between psychiatric medicine and criminal justice. It refers to a defendant's ability to understand and participate in the legal process, a prerequisite to a fair trial. There is a widespread consensus that the current legal test for fitness ("the Pritchard Test") is antiquated and systematically underreports the prevalence of unfitness among defendants.   The Law Commission of England and Wales recently published a consultation paper "Fitness to Plead", calling both for a new test for fitness akin to the civil test for mental capacity, and for research about how fitness should be conceptualised and measured. This paper makes initial steps to answer that call. The history and current procedural aspects of the law are outlined, and the concept of fitness to plead is considered in terms of mental capacity, a juridico-medical construct used in determining whether an individual is capable of making decisions for him/herself. Comparisons are made with other jurisdictions, in particular the USA and Jersey, and the clinical implications of changing the law in England and Wales, including the introduction of a defined psychiatric test for assessing fitness to plead, are discussed.

2014 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

Mr Stefano Sandrone
Since 1951, the German city of Lindau hosts the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. They are important meetings that bring together Nobel Laureates and promising young scientists from around the world. Nobel Laureates have gathered annually in Lindau to mentor and inspire the next generation of excellent scientists. This year’s 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting has been dedicated to Physiology or Medicine, and 37 Nobel Laureates have attended this event (Sunday 29th of June-Friday 4th of July, 2014).
I am really delighted for having qualified in a global competition among young scientists worldwide to partecipate in such prestigious Meeting! 
My days in Lindau have been fantastic and unforgettable. Entering the congress center on the Lindau island on the first day was a uniquely emotive experience. Swedish and German flags were waving outside, and we were welcome inside by a film of more than one hundred years of history of Nobel Prizes. Countess Bettina Bernadotte, the organiser of the Meeting, guided the Nobel Laureates inside the conference hall. A touching standing ovation accompanied them. We enjoyed a keynote lecture on international health by Hans Rosling and listened to the fascinating music played by the Ensemble of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
From Monday morning onwards, the program of the meeting became very intense (and, of course, amazingly intriguing): eight Nobel Lectures in a row every morning, lunch with the young scientists, interactive classes with the Nobel Laureates during the afternoon and social events with them and the other participants at dinner time, plus a special cruise to the Mainau Island on the last day!
Here you can have a look at the full programme
and watch the videos of the Nobel Lectures:
Most of the Nobel Laureates talked not only about their researches and their breakthrough findings, but also about the emotions they felt while making their discoveries and gave many tips to us. Having the possibilities to directly interact with the Laureates has been amazing: they were very keen on discussing with the young scientists. I met many young researchers and I could benefit from a really stimulating environment.
Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting has definitively been one of the best weeks in my life!
Here you can find my profile featured in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting blog:
I have also written two posts for the blog: the first one is about my (Neuro)scientific thoughts on the way to Lindau (, whereas the second one is an interview to Nobel Laureate Erwin Neher (

International Meeting For Autism Research (IMFAR) 2015

Ines Pote 

The International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) is the most important annual conference to those involved in autism research, as it brings together scientific leaders with early-career researchers and other stakeholders. This year, the meeting was held in Salt Lake City (Utah, USA) between the 13th and 16th of May, and accommodated for over 1,800 people – all of which approach the study of autism from many varied perspectives. As such, it was incredibly interesting to be present in discussions amongst practicing clinicians, basic scientists and autistic patients. Above all, it was a fantastic opportunity to be exposed to the most up-to-date research in the field. It was also motivating to attend workshops that were directed related to my doctoral thesis; namely those on the early diagnosis of autism, the search for biomarkers, and the study of infants at-risk. These presentations, and the discussions that stemmed from them, stimulated my thoughts and allowed me to think of my own research from a different viewpoint.  

Importantly, the conference also proved to be an invaluable opportunity for me to showcase my most recent work. On the 14th of May, I gave my poster presentation (#124.1114), entitled “Cerebellum Enlargement in 4-6-Month-Old Infants at High Familial Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders”, and I found the experience to be extremely rewarding. I thoroughly enjoyed discussing my work with others, and I found it very encouraging to have many IMFAR attendees showing interest in my research. The feedback that they provided was invaluable to me, and it will surely shape my future work.

MSU 2013 - 41
MSU 2013 - 34
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