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Tall Poppy tackles Autism Spectrum Disorders

Research that is helping to better understand the neurological bases of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) with the hope of developing a world-first treatment has been recognised with a 2012 Tall Poppy Award.

2012 Tall Poppy Award recipient, Dr Peter Enticott.

Dr Peter Enticott from the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre was awarded the prize at a ceremony this week. The awards, administered by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS), aim to engage the public in celebrating scientific excellence and achievement in Australia.

Dr Enticott said he was honoured to have his work recognised by the AIPS.

"This is a fantastic organisation that actively promotes the communication of science to the broader community, which is ultimately where we want our research to have its biggest impact," Dr Enticott said. 

The diagnosis of ASD, a group of developmental disabilities that severely affect a person's behaviour, communication, sensory function and motor control, has risen dramatically in recent years. Recent estimates suggest that one in 88 children are affected by ASD, for which there is currently no medical treatment. 

Dr Enticott's work uses cutting-edge neuroscience techniques to understand what is happening in the brain to cause ASD. Actively seeking a viable treatment for the disorders, he is involved in world-first clinical trials that use non-invasive brain stimulation to improve activity in areas of the brain that are dedicated to social understanding. 

"Despite the rise in prevalence rates for ASD we still do not have any validated biomedical treatments for the core symptoms," Dr Enticott said. 

“Initial results from our research suggest that brain stimulation might be effective in improving aspects of social relating in ASD, which is very exciting and gives hope for the development of a biomedical treatment.”

The Tall Poppy prize carries an obligation to promote science through school visits, media, work experience programs and community seminars. Dr Enticott is more than comfortable with the role of science ambassador, having engaged with many community organisations and the media to communicate his work. 

Monash University has produced several Tall Poppies since the awards were founded in 1999, including, most recently Dr David Turner from the Faculty of Science in 2011.

Monash University

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