Doctor Eric Courchesne

Doctor Eric Courchesne - Co-Director of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Autism Center of Excellence

Dr. Eric Courchesne is internationally recognized for his research on the developmental neurobiology of ASD, including genomic, molecular, cellular, anatomical and functional abnormalities associated with the disorder. His research has elucidated the early developmental neural and genomic bases of ASD as well as identified biomarkers for earlier diagnosis that enable earlier treatment referral. His brain imaging studies have identified cerebral, cerebellar and amygdala regions that are abnormal at infancy in ASD and have revealed patterns of abnormal brain growth from infancy through adulthood. Current functional brain imaging techniques have discovered that ASD toddlers who later have a good language outcome have a near normal brain response to speech but ASD toddlers who later have a poor language outcome display little brain responses to speech at early ages. Such studies aim to uncover further early brain biomarkers of ASD developmental outcome. Dr. Courchesne has also discovered clear evidence that ASD begins in prenatal life, including finding a 67% excess numbers of prefrontal neurons, abnormal functioning of gene networks that control the generation, migration and growth of neurons, and patches of abnormally organized cortex. These groundbreaking ASD postmortem studies are evidence that ASD is a prenatal neural disorder. They also show that at these early stages, neurobiological heterogeneity in ASD is already present including variation in cortical neuron excess and the cell-types and cortical layers most affected. Thus, Dr. Courchesne pursues multiple scientific avenues that bring knowledge and insight about when and how brain development goes awry in ASD. His studies have a very high impact factor of 98 with over 32,000 citations of his >200 publications, including ones in JAMA, Science, Lancet, JAMA Psychiatry, PNAS, Neuron and the New England Journal of Medicine.