Invited Speakers - Professor Russell Snell and Doctor Jessie Jacobsen (Minds for Minds, Auckland University)


Professor Russell Snell and Dr Jessie Jacobsen are scientists at The University of Auckland and founders of the Minds for Minds autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research network.  This research network has grown to include more than 1300 members of the public, 20+ clinicians and more than 30 researchers of many disciplines.  One of the key projects of the network is Jessie and Russell’s project investigating the genetics underlying autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental disorders.  Their research has resulted in clinical diagnoses for 16 individuals, and for two families resulted in a refined diagnosis from ASD to a more specific syndrome.  These findings have resulted in significant health outcomes for the families involved and is uncovering common biological pathways that might be involved in ASD.

Analysis of the information provided by the registrants for the  Minds for Minds research project, in collaboration with Autism New Zealand, is also providing insight into some of the most pressing health concerns for those on the spectrum in New Zealand.  For instance, the predominant comorbidity for those over the age of 18 years is anxiety and depression, while in the younger children (age 0-7) it is attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.  

It is anticipated that this correlation of basic biological research with clinical presentations will improve health outcomes and help advise educational, social and health policies in New Zealand.