Daniel Geschwind, MD, PhD
Daniel Geschwind holds the Gordon and Virginia MacDonald Distinguished Chair, and is a Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry and Human Genetics, and Director of the Neurogenetics Program and Center for Autism Research and Treatment at UCLA. He obtained an AB degree in psychology and chemistry at Dartmouth College; and his MD and PhD degrees at Yale University School of Medicine, where he studied mammalian cerebral cortical development. He completed his neurology residency at UCLA in 1995, where he has remained following postdoctoral training in genetics, joining the faculty in 1997 to develop the program in neurogenetics.
The Geschwind Neurogenetics Laboratory works from the assumption that it is necessary to integrate approaches from several disciplines including basic neurobiology, genetics and genomics with translational studies in humans, to understand and develop better treatments for human neurologic and psychiatric diseases. The lab’s long-term interest is in understanding the molecular basis of human cognitive specializations and disorders affecting them, such as autism and neurodegenerative conditions. This work necessarily requires a multipronged approach, and an enduring view, as well as multidisciplinary collaborations, for example in order to integrate genetic findings in diseases such as autism, with molecular understanding of language and the development of human brain circuits, all in a comparative evolutionary context. Recently, lab members have worked with collaborators to develop and apply methods for network and systems biology analyses. Such a systems level approach is necessary to realize the integration of the multiple levels of data obtained in these studies, and enable one to connect molecular pathways to nervous system function. This approach has been applied to identify key sources of human brain evolution, demonstrate the nature of the molecular overlap between normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as new therapeutic targets in other forms of dementia and neurodegenerative diseases.
Dr. Geschwind has also put considerable effort into fostering large-scale collaborative patient resources for genetic research and data sharing. He has provided scientific oversight for the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE), the largest collection of multiplex autism families in the world. This effort, also funded by NIH, represents a unique partnership between his group at UCLA and AGRE (now at Autism Speaks). Using AGRE, his group and others have made major advances in autism over the last 3 years, ranging from the discovery of different forms of rare, disease causing mutations, to common variants that are related to the development of normal language in ASD and other related disorders. He sits on numerous scientific advisory, panels including the NIH Council of Councils, the NIMH Scientific Advisory Council, the Faculty of 1000 Medicine, and provides editorial service to several journals including, Biological Psychiatry, Neurobiology of Disease and Neuron. He received the Derek Denny-Brown Neurological Scholar Award from the American Neurological Association in 2004 and the Scientific Service Award from Autism Speaks in 2007.