NEWS | May 2, 2019

A possible explanation for the higher rate of autism in males?

Expert addresses maternal stress and environmental exposures at MIND Institute lecture

(SACRAMENTO)

Staci Bilbo will present “Brain immune interactions in neurodevelopment” at the UC Davis MIND Institute Wednesday, May 8 as the final lecturer in 2018-19 Distinguished Lecturer Series. The hour-long presentation will begin at 4:30 p.m. at the MIND Institute Auditorium, 2825 50th St. in Sacramento, followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer session. The event is free to the public and no reservations are required; however, seating is limited.

Bilbo’s research looks at the interactions between the endocrine and immune systems and the brain and how these interactions affect health and behavior. Her most recent research focuses on the results of maternal stress that happens early in life, such as obesity, infection, and exposure to environmental toxins, and how they affect neural and immune system development, especially in autism spectrum disorder.

Bilbo and her lab use pregnant mouse models to test the effects of exposure to diesel exhaust particles. Bilbo will discuss how exposure to these particles can change immune cells in the brains of males, but not females. She will also share that baby male mice who were exposed to both maternal stress and diesel exhaust particles had difficulty with communication, socialization and cognition. These findings suggest that environmental exposures to toxins combined with maternal stress that activate the mother’s immune system may impact brain and behavioral development in male children.

Bilbo is the Lurie Family associate professor of pediatrics and neuroscience at Harvard Medical School and the director of research for the Lurie Center for Autism at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and biology from the University of Texas at Austin and her doctorate degree in neurology from Johns Hopkins University.

These presentations are intended for both professionals and community members. For more information, contact Felicia Carrillo at 916-703-0253 or fcarrillo@ucdavis.edu. For media inquiries, contact Dorsey Griffith at 916-734-9118 or dgriffith@ucdavis.edu.