Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
UC Davis MIND Institute
After spending the early part of his career at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Dr. Amaral joined the University of California, Davis in 1995 as a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Center for Neuroscience and is currently a Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience. In 1998, Dr. Amaral was named the Beneto Foundation Chair and founding Research Director of the MIND Institute which is dedicated to studying autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Amaral received a joint PhD in Psychology and Neurobiology from the University of Rochester and then carried out postdoctoral work at Washington University in neuroanatomy.
For the last 25 years, his research has been dedicated to understanding the psychological and biological bases of autism spectrum disorder. This work includes postmortem studies of the autistic brain and magnetic resonance imaging studies of children with autism spectrum disorder. He has also spearheaded efforts to establish nonhuman primate models of autism spectrum disorder. He coordinates a comprehensive and multidisciplinary analysis of children with autism at the MIND Institute called the Autism Phenome Project to define biomedical characteristics of different types of autism. In 2001, Amaral collaborated with Cure Autism Now and NAAR to hold the first International Meeting for Autism Research in San Diego which led to INSAR and the INSAR conference.
More recently, Dr. Amaral has become Director of Autism BrainNet, a collaborative effort sponsored by the Simons Foundation to solicit postmortem brain tissue to facilitate autism research. Amaral was the President of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) in 2009 and 2010. In April of 2015, he became Editor-in-Chief of Autism Research, the journal of INSAR. In 2016, he was appointed to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee by the US Secretary of Health and Human Services. In 2017, he successfully competed for an NIH-funded Autism Center of Excellence (ACE), which he directs. This ACE is dedicated to providing innovative and targeted treatments to children with autism. Amaral has published over 330 research articles and has co-edited three books. In 2019, Amaral was elected to the prestigious US National Academy of Medicine.