Meet a Pioneering Neuroscientist and Clinician

Dr Aditi Shankardass is a clinical neuroscientist, and an expert in the use of a pioneering EEG-based technology to investigate the underlying neurophysiological abnormalities in children with autism and other developmental disorders.  Her pioneering clinical work has been covered by the press worldwide, including CNN, ABC News, Times of India and Financial Express and was the subject of her widely acclaimed TED talk in 2009 at the TED conference.

Dr Shankardass has a unique background in neuroscience.  Her knowledge of the field spans three disciplines - she was trained in Neurophysiology for her BSc, Neuroanatomy for her MSc and Neuropsychology for her PhD.  Moreover, her experience in the field bridges three forms of practice - she has conducted laboratory research in cellular and systems neuroscience, clinical research in cognitive neuroscience, and clinical diagnosis in paediatric neurology.

Dr Shankardass' previous work in the UK, using EEG techniques to research the underlying neurological cause of dyslexia, was the subject of a prize-winning presentation to the British Parliament, and has been the subject of documentaries, presentations and publications.  She also advises several private and government hospitals in India.

Dr Shankardass is actively involved in improving public understanding of brain disorders globally.  She has worked as neuroscience consultant for BBC Science Line, providing expertise for radio and TV documentaries in the UK.  She also serves as a board member of the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation, a US organisation devoted to raising global awareness of neurological disorders.

She was educated between New Delhi and London.

Summary of Dr Shankardass' Work in Pediatric Neurology

It is estimated that one in six children suffer from developmental disorders, including mental retardation, autism spectrum disorders, learning disorders, attentional disorders, genetic disorders, sleep disorders.  However, despite the fact that all these disorders originate in the brain, most of them are diagnosed solely by looking at behavioural symptoms and without ever looking at the brain!  That is to say, they are diagnosed behaviourally rather than neurologically.  This often results in an incomplete or inaccurate diagnosis.

Dr Shankardass specializes in a groundbreaking EEG diagnostic technology developed by Harvard University.  This technology records and analyses the EEG (brain electrical activity) in real time, allowing them to watch the child's brain as it performs various functions, detect even the slightest abnormalities in these functions, and provide a more accurate and comprehensive clinical, picture of the child's abnormalities.

The results have been startling.  Almost 50% of the children previously diagnosed with autism are found to be suffering from some degree of brain seizure activity that is undetectable to the eye.  In some cases, these seizures are the cause of the child's autism-like symptoms.  In other cases, these seizures are not causal, but comorbid (coexistent) to autism and are exacerbating the child's symptoms.  And in a few cases, the seizures are mild and possibly unrelated to, or a consequence of, the child's symptoms.  In the cases where these seizures are the cause of the symptoms, once the seizures have been detected and treated, the level and speed of recovery in the children has been remarkable.

This new-generation of EEG technology is proving to be a valuable investigative tool that is revealing specific problems hidden within these children's brains that would never have been detected by behavioural assessments.  It is enabling us to better triangulate the cause of the child's symptoms, by eliminating the possibility that some or all of the child's symptoms might be caused by epileptiform (seizure-like) activity in the brain.  Thus, these EEG scans are enabling a more accurate diagnoses and more targeted treatments.  Finally, hundreds of children, who were undiagnosed or misdiagnosed by the system, are realizing their full potential while there their brains can still recover.  Hundreds of lives are being transformed.

Watch Dr Shankardass speak at TED INDIA 2009

Please leave your comments on the TED website.

Contact Dr Shankardass

Email: aditishankardass at gmail dot com

Twitter: ashankardass

If you would like to contact Dr Shankardass about her TED talk, please feel free to write to the address above.

Thank you,

Martin Johnson (assistant to Dr Shankardass)

 © VPUK 2009