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Lecture Core

In the Lecture core, interns are introduced to foundational knowledge that underlies the neurobiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). REACH faculty mentors teach interns on the biology of the brain, brain development and neurodevelopmental disorders with emphasis in ASD.


In the first block of lectures, interns receive introductory knowledge on the brain and neuronal function. In the second, normal and altered brain development. In the third and final block, the clinical presentation of ASD and what is known of the environmental and genetic causes of ASD. Interns receive and review lecture topics and learning objectives before each session. After lecture, interns engage in recitations sessions, which are interactive and didactic discussions helmed by graduate student mentors that prime the integration of lecture material with clinical, career development and research cores.


The outcome of the Lecture core is for interns to grasp the “knowns and unknowns” of the neurobiology of ASD to inform the design of their own research projects for the Research core.

The Nervous System, Brain Cells, Neuronal Function

The Nervous System, Brain Cells, Neuronal Function

These are a series of sessions that describe the general architecture of the nervous system, the structure and function of neurons, white matter and gray matter, glial cells and the extracellular matrix.

Sessions address the central role of synaptic communication for normal brain function and how synaptic release of neurotransmitter and activation of post-synaptic receptors underlie synaptic transmission. Emphasis is given to the mechanisms of protein synthesis (translation) and gene expression (transcription) that can exert persistent changes in synaptic communication and hence, brain function.


Sabina Hrabetova MD/PhD

Assoc. Prof. Cell Biology. DHSU

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Juan Marcos Alarcon PhD

Assoc. Prof. Pathology, DHSU


Ivan A. Hernandez PhD

Director Imaging Facility, Asst. Prof. Pathology. DHSU

Brain Anatomy

The first session defines and describes the organization of the central nervous system. This organization includes the cerebral hemispheres, the brainstem, the cerebellum and the spinal cord.

The second session defines and describes the anatomy and function of brain “systems”; for example, the motor system, the touch system, which will be relevant in subsequent lectures.


John Kubie PhD

Assoc. Prof. Cell Biology, DHSU

Brain Development

The first session introduces an overview to normal human development of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) with emphasis in brain development.

The second session presents a closer look to brain development at the cellular level, introducing progenitor cells, migration and cell differentiation as well as the identification of “critical periods” during development.

Neurodevelopmental Disorders

The first session shows how insults during “critical periods” affect brain development causing neurodevelopmental disorders, including ASD.

The second session introduces neural tube defects in which the brain and spinal cord are not formed correctly leading to a number of neurological disorders.

The third session introduces metabolic alterations as a critical factor for brain and spinal cord malformation disorders as well as neurodevelopmental disorders. 

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Autism Spectrum Disorders

The first session introduces an overview of ASD from a clinical perspective.

The second lecture describes the heterogeneous clinical picture, “the Autisms” vs. one single disorder, the natural history and expected developmental course of ASD and how understanding the “Social Brain” helps us understand the possible brain deficits underlying ASD.

The third session presents an overview of current ASD treatments, interventions, and how a clinical perspective on ASD relates to research studies.


Harris Huberman MD

Division Chief of Child Development. and Developmental Disorders, Dept. Pediatrics, DHSU

Brain Anatomy Laboratory

Four sessions with brain specimens identify major brain structures, regions and pathways, with emphasis on those taught in lecture. This introductory anatomy laboratory serves as a framework for incoming knowledge in brain development and developmental disorders.

The laboratories are complemented by an online Brain Atlas developed in-house and tailor-made for REACH interns.

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