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David G. Amaral, PhD, is a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Davis, United States, and since 1998 has been the research director at the M.I.N.D. Institute, an affiliate of UC Davis, engaged in interdisciplinary research into the causes and treatment of autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders. Amaral joined the UC Davis faculty as a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Center for Neuroscience and as an investigator at the California Regional Primate Research Center in 1991. Since 1995, he has been a professor of psychiatry in the UC Davis School of Medicine, with an appointment to the Center for Neuroscience.
In 1972, Amaral earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from Northwestern University, and in 1977 his PhD in neurobiology and psychology at the University of Rochester. From 1977 to 1980, Amaral was a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow, at the Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis, Missouri.
A specialist on the organization and functioning of the hippocampus and other parts of the primate brain, Amaral has chaired the doctoral program in neuroscience at UC Davis. Amaral has directed over a million dollars worth of research with grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which has included primate research investigations on the function of the amygdala, a brain region associated with emotion processing. Much of his research at the M.I.N.D. Institute revolves around the function of the amygdala and the hippocampal complex, and their respective roles in the pathology of autism.
Amaral investigated "Postmortem Neuroanatomical Evaluation of the Amygdaloid Complex in Autism"; his earlier studies detected alterations in the amygdala, which itself underlies the social and emotional abnormalities in autism. Amaral is attempting to evaluate his hypothesis by analyzing the atypical neural organization in individuals with autism.
The M.I.N.D. Institute, under Amaral's direction since its inception, was founded by UC Davis in collaboration with the parents of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Amaral's research team is dedicated to understanding and conquering autism, which impairs the ability of people to interact with other people. The partnership between the parents and Amaral's team of researchers secured $34 million in funding from the California legislature, primarily for research purposes. After raising additional funds and building a state-of-the-art facility in Sacramento, California, the institute touts itself as the premier autism fundraising and research center in the world.
Amaral's awards include the McKnight Foundation Scholars Award, 1981, the Sloan Foundation Fellow, 1983, and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Merit Award, 1989 and 1993. He is the first holder of the Beneto Foundation Chair, an endowed position at UC Davis created by the Beneto Foundation of Sacramento.
- "David Amaral". Center for Neuroscience. Retrieved 23 April 2013.