An agenda for 21st century neurodevelopmental medicine: lessons from autism
Summary. The future of neurodevelopmental medicine has the potential of situating child neurology at the forefront of a broad-based public health effort to optimize neurodevelopmental outcomes of children born with high-prevalence and diverse genetic, pre- and peri-natal, and environmental burdens compromising early brain development and leading to lifetime disabilities. Building on advancements in developmental social neuroscience and in implementation science, this shift is already occurring in the case of emblematic neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. Capitalizing on early neuroplasticity and on quantification of trajectories of social-communicative development, new technologies are emerging for high-throughput and cost-effective diagnosis and for community-viable delivery of powerful treatments, in seamless integration across previously fragmented systems of healthcare delivery. These solutions could be deployed in the case of other groups of children at greater risk for autism and communication delays, such as those born extremely premature or with congenital heart disease. The galvanizing concept in this aspirational future is a public health focus on promoting optimal conditions for early brain development, not unlike current campaigns promoting pre-natal care, nutrition or vaccination.
Key words. Autism. Autism spectrum disorder. Early brain development. Early detection. Early intervention. Neurodevelopmental medicine. Optimizing outcomes. Social visual engagement.