David Amaral, Ph.D.

 David  Amaral, Ph.D.


  • Professor
  • Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Structural Imaging of the Autistic Brain, Social Behavior in Animal Models of Autism

Research Summary

Our research is directed at understanding brain systems involved in memory, emotion and social behavior. We carry out neuroanatomical studies of the hippocampal formation and amygdaloid complex of the macaque monkey and human brains. We are devoting increasing amounts of effort to understanding the morphological development of these brain regions. We are also using noninvasive imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), to study the development and functioning of the primate brain. Over the last 10 years our laboratory has become increasingly involved in research into the neurobiological underpinnings of autism spectrum disorders. Research ranges from longitudinal MRI studies of children with autism to evaluation of autoantibodies in these children and in their mothers. We are conducting a number of studies using clinical observations of impaired immune function to develop nonhuman primate models of autism.

Selected Publications

Amaral DG, Schumann CM, Nordahl CW: (2008)  Neuroanatomy of Autism. 

Trends Neurosci. 3:137-145.

Martin LA, Ashwood P, Braunschweig D, Cabanlit M, Van de Water J, Amaral DG: (2008) Stereotypies and hyperactivity in rhesus monkeys exposed to IgG from mothers of children with autism. Brain Behav Immun. 22:806-16.

Machado CJ, Emery NJ, Capitanio JP, Mason WA, Mendoza SP, Amaral DG (2008). Bilateral neurotoxic amygdala lesions in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta): Consistent pattern of behavior across different social contexts. Behavioral Neurosci. 122:251-66.   

Wills S, Cabanlit M, Bennett J, Ashwood P, Amaral DG, Van de Water J: (2008) Autoantibodies in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Ann NY Acad Sci. 1107:79-91.

Kondo H, Lavenex P, Amaral DG: (2008) Intrinsic connections of the macaque monkey hippocampal formation: I. Dentate Gyrus. Journal of Comparative Neurology. 511:497-520.

Bauman MD, Toscano JE, Babineau BA, Mason WA, Amaral DG: (2008) Emergence of

stereotypies in juvenile monkeys with neonatal amygdala or hippocampus lesions. Behavioral Neuroscience. 122:1005-1015.

Antoniadis EA, Winslow JT, Davis M, Amaral DG: (2008) The non human primate amygdala is necessary for the acquisition but not the retention of fear-potentiated startle: Effects of chronic amygdala lesions in the rhesus monkey. Biological Psychiatry. (in press)

Lavenex P, Lavenex PB, Amaral DG (2006) Spatial relational learning persists following neonatal hippocampal lesions in macaque monkeys. Nat Neurosci. 10:234-9.


The M.I.N.D Institute

The California National Primate Center

Animal Behavior