University of Tours, France
From early synchronization to social cognition: developmental trajectories in Autism
Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) cover a large variety of clinical profiles which share two main dimensions: social and communication impairment and repetitive behaviors or restricted interests, which are present during childhood. There is now no doubt that genetic factors are a major component in the etiology of autism but precise physiopathological pathways are still being investigated. Furthermore, developmental trajectories combined with compensatory mechanisms will lead to various clinical and neurophysiological profiles from childhood to adulthood, which together constitute this Autism Spectrum Disorder. To better understand the pathophysiology of autism, comprehension of key neurophysiological mechanisms and brain circuits underlying the different bioclinical profiles is thus crucial. Adopting a translational approach which includes both thorough clinical description and a large variety of neurophysiological investigations our group has identified in children and adults with autism that i) disturbances of sensory-perceptive information processing, from information capture to cortical treatment, stemming from both social and non-social environments, are fundamental cues in the pathophysiology of ASD, ii) both cortical, sub-cortical and Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) networks are involved, iii) individual profile can be identified and related to a combination of clinical parameters, iiii) pathophysiological cascade starts in-utero. Altogether these results emphasized the complexity of the key stages of the neurodevelopmental cascade leading to the specific combination of symptoms characterizing Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Frédérique Bonnet-Brilhault is a psychiatrist and Professor of physiology at University of Tours. She is currently the leader of the Neurofunctional Psychiatry Team of the UMR 1253 research unit and was the leader of Autism Team of the research unit UMR INSERM 930 “Imaging and Brain” (2012-2018). She is Director of EXAC-T (Center of Excellence, FHU). She is the head of the Child Psychiatry Center of the CHUT and coordinator of the CRA which serves patients with autism from the entire "Centre Val-de-Loire” (CVL) region. She is a member of the executive board of the CHUT as vice president in charge of research (since 2014) and of the general assembly of HUGO. She is an expert for the National Health Authority (HAS) and an elected member of Section 4402 (Physiology) of the National University Council (CNU). She is co-coordinator of Axis II of the "Réseau Recherche Autisme" (AVIESAN, ITMO “Neuroscience") (since 2014). She is chair of the scientific committee of the 12th Autism-Europe International Congress (Nice, September 13-15, 2019).
Her research, dedicated to furthering our understanding of autism, benefits from a combination of her complementary skills in molecular genetics, clinical electrophysiology and in cognitive neuroscience. She has published 103 papers in the fields of clinical, electrophysiology, molecular genetics in autism, in highly ranked scientific journals. In addition, she has written 18 book chapters and coordinated two book editions.