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Sacramento, Calif.- ย— Marjorie Solomon, a nationally known autism researcher with the UC Davis MIND Institute, today was appointed by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to the federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, the advisory committee that coordinates all efforts within the department related to autism spectrum disorders.

Solomon, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the UC Davis School of Medicine, was appointed as an advisory public member. In this role she will participate as a representative of a leading research, advocacy and service organization for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Solomon and other new IACC members were welcomed by Secretary Sebelius during a full committee meeting in Washington, D.C.

‘I am very excited to be appointed to this important committee charged with helping determine strategic funding priorities for autism research. I look forward to working with my colleagues to promote good policy and smart decisions that have a longstanding, positive impact on the welfare of all people with autism throughout their life spans,’ Solomon said.

Solomon also expressed gratitude to Vice Chancellor for Human Health Sciences and Dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine Claire Pomeroy and her staff, the MIND Institute board of directors, and to the offices of Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Senator Barbara Boxer, California state Senator Darrell Steinberg and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, for their support of her appointment.

The committee, created in 2006 by passage of the Combating Autism Act, coordinates all efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concerning autism, including activities carried out through HHS agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration.

One of the committee’s key functions is developing the Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder Research, which provides a blueprint for autism research that advises the department and provides a basis for partnerships with other federal agencies and private organizations involved in autism research and services for individuals with autism.

“The Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder Research has a very broad scope that ranges from basic science investigations to those focused on the efficacy of interventions and services,’ said Solomon, who also is a researcher with the UC Davis Imaging Research Center and the MIND Institute’s Autism Research Training Program.

The committee includes both federal and public members. Thirteen federal members represent agencies that conduct research or provide services to individuals with autism and other disabilities, including the National Institutes of Health and its member institutes ย— such as the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders ย— and the U.S. Department of Education.

Solomon’s appointment follows the decision by Sebelius to expand the number of public members from six to eleven. In congratulating the new appointees, Thomas R. Insel, chair of the committee and director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said he looks forward to the involvement of the newly appointed public members.

‘I am delighted that Secretary Sebelius has expanded the IACC to include more public members,’ Insel said. ‘As a coordinating committee, the IACC should be even more effective by including the perspectives of additional foundations and individuals supporting autism research and services.’

‘I heartily congratulate Dr. Solomon on her appointment to the committee,’ said Robert Hales, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and interim director of the MIND Institute. ‘Dr. Solomon is a wonderful addition to the committee and will be a great representative of UC Davis and the MIND Institute. She is an exceptional autism researcher and one of the nation’s leading experts on the use of social skills training for children and adolescents in order to improve their peer and parental relationships and to increase their success with social interactions at school.’

Solomon’s principal research program, which is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, investigates the development of cognitive control and other forms of higher cognition in high-functioning individuals with autism spectrum disorders using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with Imaging Research Center Director Cameron Carter. She also is involved in research, with autism researcher and MIND Institute Education Director Peter Mundy, examining the relationship between cognitive control and shared attention using virtual reality-based social paradigms.

The UC Davis MIND Institute, in Sacramento, Calif., was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where parents, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers collaborate to study and treat autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

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