Manuel Casanova

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Manuel Casanova
Manuel Casanova
Alma materJohns Hopkins
Known forSmartState Chair in Childhood neurotherapeutics
AwardsThe Outstanding Scholar Award
Frontiers Media Spotlight Award
Scientific career
FieldsChildhood Neurotherapeutics
InstitutionsUniversity of South Carolina Greenville
Son-in-law, Matt Might[1]

Manuel F. Casanova is the SmartState Endowed Chair in Childhood Neurotherapeutics and a professor of Biomedical Sciences at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville. He is a former Gottfried and Gisela Kolb Endowed Chair in Outpatient Psychiatry and a Professor of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology at the University of Louisville.[2]

Casanova has four daughters: Cristina, Sabrina, Belinda, and Melina. Cristina Casanova Might is the Founder and President of the NGLY1 Foundation[3] and the Executive Director at the Undiagnosed Diseases Network Foundation (UDNF).[4] He is married to Emily Casanova, a research assistant professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville[5] who studies autism genetics, the evolution of susceptibility genes in rare disorders, and is a patient advocate for the Ehlers-Danlos community.[6] His son-in-law is Matt Might, director of the Hugh Kaul Personalized Medicine Institute at the University of Alabama Birmingham.[1] Casanova has a personal blog titled "Cortical Chauvinism".[7]

Education and early career[edit]

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. In June 2014, he moved to the University of South Carolina and the Greenville Health System.[2]


Casanova's recent research projects have examined brain abnormalities in patients with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders and dyslexia. 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.[8][9] 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.[7]

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. The studies that he conducted 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.[10] Casanova claimed this helps explain symptoms since "there's not enough juice to actually power very long connections in the brain".[11]

Casanova has also been studying the autonomic nervous system in autistic individuals. He found that the sympathetic branch of the ANS is overactive in autistic children, which leads to higher levels of anxiety. Additionally, he believes that TMS and neurofeedback can reduce autonomic dysfunction that is linked to certain foods.[12]

Casanova notes that one of the problems with brain banks is that preserved brain tissue can deteriorate over time, but claims that brain banks promote far more research insight than MRI scans.[13]


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.[14]


  • Presidential Award of the American Medical Association, Puerto Rico Chapter (1981) [15]
  • Physician's Recognition Award by the American Medical Association (1982-5)
  • National Research Service Award (1984-6)
  • Stanley Scholar (1994)
  • Distinguished Faculty, The Medical College of Georgia (1995)
  • Scientific Advisory Board, National Alliance for Autism Research (1996)
  • Tissue Advisory Board, Autism Tissue Board (1999-2000)
  • Senior Scientist Award, 11th Biennial Winter Workshop on Schizophrenia (2002)
  • Distinguished Clinical Research Award, Medical College of Georgia (2003)
  • Gottfried and Gisela Kolb Endowed Chair in Psychiatry (2003)
  • Chairperson, NIH-CSR Developmental Brain Disorders Study Section (2007-9)
  • Magisterial Presentation. Third World Congress of Autism (2010)
  • Contributing Piece Award presented by Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT) (2011)
  • Opening Speaker for the International Symposium 2012 of the FRA/CIBERER on Advances in the Biomedical Research of Autism Spectrum Disorders (2012)
  • Member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for Generation Rescue (2013)
  • Magisterial presentation. XV Simposio de investigaciones en salud: discapacidad y ciclo vital (2013)
  • Honorary Professor the International Autism Institute (2013)
  • Scientific Advisory Board, Clearly Present Foundation (2013)
  • Scientific Advisory Board, Center for Advanced Diagnostics, Evaluation, and Therapeutics, LLC (2013)
  • Miembro equipo fundador: Autismo Colombia (2014)
  • Scientific Advisory Board, Autism Research Institute, San Diego CA (2015)
  • Honorary Doctor of Krasnoyarsk State Pedagogical University (2015)
  • Visiting Professor of the Krasnoyarsk State Medical University (2015)
  • President elect, International Consortium of Autism Institutes (2016)
  • Special Recognition, Distinguished Seminar Series, University of Louisville (2016)
  • Advisory Board, Our Sunny World, Russia (2017)
  • Member of the Irlen International Professional Advisory Board (2017)
  • The Outstanding Scholar Award[16] (2017)
  • Frontiers Spotlight Award[17] (2017)

Views on neurodiversity[edit]

Casanova has stated that most of the neurodiversity movement is based on the good intention to destigmatize autism, but some of their scientific arguments are questionable.[18] He sees many other positives in the movement, such as the desire for acceptance and accommodations.[19] Casanova states that the concepts behind neurodiversity originated in ancient Greek times, when Socrates attempted to determine which behaviors were a disorder and which ones were simply differences. According to him, those ideas were also seen in the Renaissance, the Romantic era, and the antipsychiatry movement. He further claims that Leo Kanner originated the modern version of the neurodiversity movement through studying autistic individuals.[20][21]

However, he says that the loudest voices in the neurodiversity camp are disruptive. Casanova claimed about their views that “They see the world in black and white, and either you are with them or against them” and “it might end up hurting research, and hurting the delivery of services to those people who most need them.” Additionally, he said “It’s not a blessing to have head-banging, eye-gouging or self-biting; those have serious side effects, including retinal detachment, cauliflower ears, they can get brain trauma, contusions. Those people need to be treated,”[19] but made no suggestions as to what that treatment might be.

In response to neurodiversity's statement that autism does not need medical treatment, Casanova points out that parents that support therapy or treatment for autistic children say that it will reduce their suffering and give them the best chance to succeed in adulthood,[21] disregarding the fact that conditions such as epilepsy are not part of autism, and those that are, such as sensory distress, can be successfully treated through interventions such as sensory integration therapy without attempting to eliminate the underlying autism. Casanova additionally claimed that until recently, the neurodiversity movement wilfully neglected the roles of Leo Kanner and Bernard Rimland in advocating for accommodations, claiming that they were ignored because those individuals also wanted medical treatments for autism.[20]

Casanova has also claimed that Neurotribes by Steve Silberman was unfairly weighted against Leo Kanner.[22] Casanova has also written against Silberman's perspective that Hans Asperger, one of the first autism researchers, should be forgiven for his involvement in the Nazi regime. "Contrary to Mr. Silberman," Casanova wrote in response, "I do not defend or condone [Asperger’s] murderous actions."[23]

Casanova claims that some media sources have misrepresented his views on autism and neurodiversity. One article from WAVE 3 claimed that Casanova wanted to wipe out autism entirely[11] when he said that was not true. Additionally, a Newsweek article claimed that Casanova received death threats from writing about autism, but this actually happened because some autistic individuals falsely thought he wanted to wipe out autism based on the WAVE 3 article.[24][25]


  1. ^ a b Casanova, Manuel (27 July 2019). "How an AI expert took on his toughest project ever: writing code to save his son's life". Cortical Chauvinism. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  2. ^ a b Casanova, Manuel. "Clinical Professors". Clemson University. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Staff". NGLY1. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  4. ^ "Cristina Casanova Might, B.S., M.B.A." Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  5. ^ Casanova, Emily (6 December 2012). "About Emily Casanova". Science Over a Cuppa. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  6. ^ Casanova, Emily (4 June 2019). "Evolution of autism genes hints at their fundamental roles in body". Spectrum. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  7. ^ a b Casanova, Manuel. "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Clemson University. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  8. ^ Denworth, Lydia (24 September 2015). "Brain Stimulation Holds Promise in Autism Treatment". Newsweek. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  9. ^ Casanova, Manuel (25 February 2019). "Autism: Miswiring and Misfiring in the Cerebral Cortex". National Council on Severe Autism. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  10. ^ Casanova, M F.; Buxhoeveden, DP; Switala, AE; Roy, E (12 February 2002). "Minicolumnar pathology in autism". Neurology. 58 (3): 428–32. doi:10.1212/wnl.58.3.428. PMID 11839843. S2CID 8508535.
  11. ^ a b Lyle, Lori. "UofL Neuroscientist So Close To Autism Breakthrough He's Helping Fund Research". WAVE3. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  12. ^ Casanova, Emily; Casanova, Manuel (14 January 2020). "How the autonomic nervous system may govern anxiety in autism". Spectrum. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  13. ^ Casanova, Manuel (5 March 2019). "Analyzing postmortem brains for autism? Proceed with caution". Spectrum News. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  14. ^ "Manuel Casanova". Autism Speaks. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  15. ^ Casanova, Manuel. "CV" (PDF). Clemson. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  16. ^ "2017 Faculty & Staff Awards". School of Medicine Greenville. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  17. ^ Communications, Frontiers (14 June 2017). "Creating human super intelligence: winner of Spotlight Award 2017". Frontiers Blog. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  18. ^ Tekin, Serife; Bluhm, Robyn (2019). The Bloomsbury Companion to Philosophy of Psychiatry. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 389. ISBN 9781350024069. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  19. ^ a b Opar, Alisa (24 April 2019). "In search of truce in the autism wars". Spectrum. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  20. ^ a b Casanova, Manuel; Casanova, Emily (2016). "Leo Kanner, the Anti-Psychiatry Movement and Neurodiversity". Siberian Journal of Special Education. 1–2 (16–17): 6–9. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  21. ^ a b Casanova, Manuel. "Neurodiversity" (PDF). Greenville Health System. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  22. ^ Harris, James C. (August 2016). "Book forum". Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 55 (8): 729–735. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2016.06.004. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  23. ^ Levental, Yuval. "The dangerous myth of neurodiversity". Spiked. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  24. ^ Hayasaki, Erika (2015-02-18). "The Debate Over an Autism Cure Turns Hostile". Newsweek. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  25. ^ Casanova, Manuel (29 July 2019). "Autism Updated". Cortical Chauvinism. Retrieved 29 July 2019.

External links[edit]

  • Official website
  • Manuel Casanova - Professor of Psychiatry, University of Louisville Google Scholar Profile
  • - 'UofL Neuroscientist So Close To Autism Breakthrough He's Helping Fund Research', Lori Lyle, (July 14, 2006)