International autism meeting tilts balance back toward biology | Spectrum | Autism Research News

Back to basics: The keynote speakers at this year’s international autism conference were basic researchers.

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Organizers of the world’s biggest autism research conference nimbly walked a tightrope this year, aiming to satisfy the meeting’s diverse mix of attendees. The offerings largely satisfied scientists pushing for a focus on biology, while also including enough sessions on social issues to please others.

About 2,500 researchers and members of the autism community attended the annual International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) meeting, held in Montreal earlier this month.

The meeting’s tone and content have evolved: In 2018, some attempts to make it more accessible to autistic people ended up irritating researchers who wanted more of a focus on genetics and neuroscience.

This year, the pendulum swung back toward basic science — and many researchers were pleased.

“I was glad to see that the program was significantly more balanced than it was last year — last year there was no biology in the program,” says Helen Tager-Flusberg, director of the Center for Autism Research Excellence at Boston University. It now looks, she says, as if “last year was a single time-point aberration.”

The conference’s planning committee plans to bolster biology even more at the next two meetings [...]

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