Education and early career
Casanova earned his medical degree from the University of Puerto Rico. He then completed clinical and research fellowships at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, including three years in neuropathology, where he was in-charge of pediatric neuropathology, which was when his interest in developmental disorders of the brain arose. He subsequently helped establish two brain banks, the Johns Hopkins Brain Resource Center and the Brain Bank Unit of the Clinical Brains Disorders Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Casanova spent several years as a deputy medical examiner for Washington, D.C., where he gained experience with the postmortem examination of sudden infant death syndrome and child abuse, which was when he began publishing extensively on postmortem techniques, including neuronal morphometry immunocytochemistry, neurochemistry, and autoradiography. He also worked as a consultant and was staff neuropathologist at Sinai Hospital in Maryland, the North Charles Hospital, and the D.C. General Hospital. He is also a former lieutenant commander in the US Public Health Service. After serving as a professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Medical College of Georgia, he subsequently joined the University of Louisville faculty.
Casanova's recent research projects have examined brain abnormalities in patients with language disturbances, including autism, dyslexia and Asperger syndrome. His interest has gradually come to focus on abnormalities of cortical neurocircuitry, in particular on the cell minicolumn, a vertical conglomerate of eighty to one hundred neurons that have in common a latency of response to stimulation. Using computerized imaging analysis, he has established the anatomical validity of the cell minicolumn. Casanova has reported interhemispheric differences in the morphometry of minicolumns that could provide explanations for the speciation of hominids. Localized in Brodmann area 22—part of Wernicke’s language region—the morphometric difference may play a role both in the development of language and in related disorders.
Casanova's most recent research studies have looked for abnormalities of minicolumnar organization and lateralization in the brains of patients who exhibit language disturbances, including autism, Asperger syndrome, and dyslexia.
His neuromorphology research, conducted in collaboration with other researchers from around the globe, has found there are drastic differences in the brains of autistic individuals. He says the results of his recent studies, which show that minicolumns (or 'brain strands') of autism spectrum individuals have more cells, but they are narrower and more densely packed, which he says can limit the brain's ability to send messages. This helps explain symptoms, says Casanova, since "there's not enough juice to actually power very long connections in the brain," adding that "It means that we have uncovered something very important, because it has explanatory powers." A similar phenomenon involving spindle cell neurons is being investigated by
His expertise in the field of postmortem techniques was recognized by honorary appointments as a Scientific Expert for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and as a Professorial Lecturer for the Department of Forensic Science at George Washington University.
Dr. Casanova has four daughters: Cristina, Sabrina, Belinda, and Aurora.
- Casanova MF, "Neuropathological and genetic findings in autism: the significance of a putative minicolumnopathy", The NeuroScientist, 2006; in press.
- Casanova MF, Switala AE, Trippe JT II. "A comparison study of the vertical bias of pyramidal cells in the hippocampus and neocortex", Developmental Neuroscience, 2006 (in press)
- Casanova MF, Kooten IAJ van, Switala AE, Engeland H van, Heinsen H, Steinbusch HWM, Hof PR, Schmitz C. "Abnormalities of cortical minicolumnar organization in the prefrontal lobes of autistic patients", Clinical Neuroscience Research 2006 (in press)
- Casanova MF, Kooten IAJ van, Switala AE, Engeland H van, Heinsen H, Steinbusch HWM, Hof PR, Trippe J, Stone J, Schmitz C, "Minicolumnar abnormalities in autism" Acta Neuropathologica, 2006; in press.
- Casanova MF, Trippe JT II, Switala AE, "A temporal continuity to the vertical organization of the human neocortex", Cerebral Cortex, 2006 (in press)
- El-Zehiry N, Casanova MF, Hassan H, Farag AA, "Effect of minicolumnar disturbance on dyslexic brains: an MRI study", Biomedical imaging: Macro to nano, 1336-1339, 2006
- Casanova MF, Trippe JT II, "Regulatory mechanisms of cortical laminar development", Brain research: Brain research reviews, 2006; 51(1), 72–84.
- Chance SA, Casanova MF, Switala AE, Crow TJ, Esiri MM, "Minicolumn thinning in temporal lobe association cortex but not primary auditory cortex in normal human ageing", Acta Neuropathologica, 2006; 111(5), 459–464
- Kruesi MJP, Casanova MF, White matter in liars", The British Journal of Psychiatry, 2006; 188(3), 293–294
- Seelan RS, Janckila AJ, Parthasarathy RN, Casanova MF, "The importance of using equimolar DNA for transfection analysis of the 5′ flanking promoter regions of genes", Analytical Biochemistry, 2006; 349(2), 306–308
- Casanova MF, (editor). Recent developments in autism research, Hauppauge, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2005.
- Casanova MF, (editor), Neocortical modularity and the cell minicolumn, Hauppauge, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2005
- Konkachbaev AI, Casanova MF, Graham JH, Elmaghraby AS, "Automated recursive segmentation of large neocortical images using standard deviation as termination criteria", 27th Annual International Conference of the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, 2531-2534, 2005
- Casanova MF, "Anomalías en los circuitos corticales en los cerebros de pacientes con autismo", in: Martos J, González PM, Llorente M, Nieto C, eds. Nuevos desarrollos en autismo: el futuro es hoy, 345-371. Madrid, Librería Paradox, 2005
- Konkachbaev AI, Elmaghraby AS, Casanova MF, "Recursive segmentation of minicolums using myelinated bundles", Proceedings of the 2nd International IEEE EMBS Conference on Neural Engineering, 52-55, 2005
- Casanova MF, de Zeeuw L, Switala AE, Kreczmanski P, Korr H, Ulfig N, Heinsen H, Steinbusch HWM, Schmitz C, "Mean cell spacing abnormalities in the neocortex of patients with schizophrenia", Psychiatry Research, 133(1):1-12, 2005
- Kruesi MJP, Casanova MF, Mannheim G, Johnson-Bilder A, "Reduced temporal lobe volume in early onset conduct disorder", Psychiatry research: Neuroimaging, 132(1):1-11, 2004
- Buxhoeveden DP, Casanova MF, "Accelerated maturation in brains of patients with Down syndrome", Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 48(7):704-705, 2004
- Casanova MF, "White matter volume increase and minicolumns in autism", Annals of Neurology, 56(3):453, 2004
- Casanova MF, Araque J, Giedd J, Rumsey JM, "Reduced brain size and gyrification in the brains of dyslexic patients", Journal of Child Neurology, 19(4):275-281, 2004
- Roy E, Casanova MF, Jerath V, "Autistic poetry as therapy", Journal of Poetry Therapy, 17(1):33-38, 2004
- Casanova MF, "Intracortical circuitry: One of Psychiatry’s missing assumptions", European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 254(3):148-151, 2004
- Casanova MF, Araque J, "Mineralization of the basal ganglia: implications for neuropsychiatry, pathology and neuroimaging", Psychiatry Research, 121(1):59-87, 2003
- Casanova MF, Buxhoeveden DP, Gomez J, "Disruption in the inhibitory architecture of the cell minicolumn: implications for autism", The Neuroscientist, 9(6):496-507, 2003
- Casanova MF, Lindzen EC, "Changes in gray-/white-matter ratios in the parahippocampal gyri of late-onset schizophrenia patients", American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 11(6):605-9, 2003
- Casanova MF, "Modular concept of brain organization and the neuropathology of psychiatric conditions", Psychiatry Research, 118(1):101-102, 2003.
- Casanova MF, Buxhoeveden DP, Switala AE, Roy E., "Rett syndrome as a minicolumnopathy", Clinical Neuropathology, 22:163-168, 2003.
- Casanova MF, "Preservation of hippocampal pyramidal cells in paraphrenia", Schizophrenia Research, 62(1-2):141-146, 2003.
- Casanova MF, Buxhoeveden DP, Brown C, "Clinical and macroscopic correlates of minicolumnar pathology in autism", Journal of Child Neurology, 17:692-695, 2002
- Casanova MF, Buxhoeveden DP, Switala AE, Roy E., "Neuronal density and architecture (gray level index) in the brains of autistic patients", Journal of Child Neurology, 17(7):515-521, 2002
- Buxhoeveden DP, Casanova MF, "The minicolumn and evolution of the brain: a review", Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 60(3):125-151, 2002
- Casanova MF, Kruesi M, Mannheim G., "Hippocampal pathology in two mentally ill paraphiliacs", Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 115(1-2):79-89, 2002.
- Casanova MF, Rothberg B, "Shape distortion of the hippocampus: a possible explanation for the reported pyramidal cell disarray in schizophrenia", Schizophrenia Research, 55(1-2):19-24, 2002
- Buxhoeveden DP, Casanova MF, "The minicolumn hypothesis in neuroscience", Brain, 125(5):935-951, 2002.
- Casanova MF, Buxhoeveden DP, Cohen M, Switala AE, Roy E., "Minicolumnar pathology in dyslexia", Annals of Neurology, 52:108-110, 2002.
- Casanova MF, Buxhoeveden DP, Switala AE, Roy E., "Asperger’s syndrome and cortical neuropathology", Journal of Child Neurology, 17(2):142-145, 2002.
- Casanova MF, Buxhoeveden DP, Switala AE, Roy E. Minicolumnar pathology in autism. Neurology, 58:428-432, 2002.
- Casanova MF, Stevens J, Brown R, Royston C, Bruton C., "Disentangling the pathology of schizophrenia and paraphrenia", Acta Neuropathologica, 103:313-320, 2002
- Buxhoeveden DP, Fobbs A, Casanova MF, "Quantitative comparison of radial cell columns in developing Down’s syndrome and normal cortex", Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 46(1):76-81, 2002
- Recent Developments in Autism Research (editor), Nova Biomedical Books, 2005, ISBN 1-59454-497-2