Venue: Centre Broca
Dre Hélène Vulser
Maître de Conférence – Praticien Hospitalier (MCU-PH)
Responsable du Centre du Neurodéveloppement Adulte Service de Psychiatrie Adulte
Hôpital Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris
Invited by Hervé Lemaître (GIN – IMN)
Structural and functional neuroanatomy of Autism Spectrum in women
The gender unbalance in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – 4:1, males to females – has led studies to focus mainly on males leaving one part of the population mostly unstudied. Explanations for such an imbalance have suggested a potential male bias resulting in females being historically under-recognized, or alternatively, that females harbor a protective effect making them less likely to develop autism. For example, female could engage in “compensation” showing fewer or less severe symptoms. In this case, studying autistic traits at a subclinical level could unreveal part of the behavioral aspect of ASD, particularly in women. Autistic traits have been defined as restricted activities/stereotypical behaviors and deficits in interaction and social communication as in ASD but at a subclinical level. The degree of these autistic traits is also referred to as the broader autism phenotype that can also be distributed along a continuum in the general population.
The neuroimaging field has also been affected by this gender unbalance and only few studies has tackled the question of brain correlates of ASD in women and even less in the framework of broad autism phenotype. However, structural and functional neuroanatomy studies in women with ASD are needed to uncover part of the heterogeneity due to gender within the neurobiology of ASD. Moreover, exploring autistic traits in women could help to understand how subclinical level of ASD interact with these brain correlates and if they might be used to predict clinical outcome or to adapt intervention in another framework than a clear cut between ASD and neurotypical individuals.
I am an Associate Professor of Psychiatry, and my work (in research, clinic and teaching) is focused on autism in adults. I am in charge of a clinical unit specialized in the diagnosis and care of adults with autism and/or other neurodevelopmental disorders. I am also PI in the Control-Interoception-Attention Team of the Paris Brain Institute (ICM). I have a broad background in adult psychiatry, with specific training and expertise in autism, neurodevelopmental disorders, depression and consultation-liaison psychiatry. During my PhD and my postdoctoral position, I worked on structural and microstructural neuroimaging within the IMAGEN consortium, an European, multicenter and longitudinal study that combines neuropsychological characterization, functional and structural neuroimaging and genome-wide association data in more than 2,000 14-year old adolescents from the general population. As an Assistant Professor, I focused on clinic and research in the field of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine. As an Associate Professor, my future work aims to combine clinical and scientific research in the field of autism and neurodevelopmental disorder in adults. Notably, one of my most important project is to study longitudinal brain changes associated with autistic traits during adolescence and young adulthood using IMAGEN data.