Dr. Martha Herbert is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, a Pediatric Neurologist and Neuroscientist at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and an affiliate of the Harvard-MIT-MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, where she is director of the TRANSCEND Research Program (Treatment Research and Neuroscience Evaluation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders). She is the author of the public-oriented book, The Autism Revolution: Whole Body Strategies for Making Life All It Can Be.
Dr. Herbert earned her medical degree at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Prior to her medical training she obtained a doctoral degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz, studying evolution and development of learning processes in biology and culture in the History of Consciousness program, and then did postdoctoral work in the philosophy and history of science. She trained in pediatrics at Cornell University Medical Center and in neurology and child neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, where she has remained. She received the first Cure Autism Now Innovator Award and spent five years on the Scientific Advisory Committee of Autism Speaks. Her background in pediatric neurology, evolutionary biology and history of science has oriented her toward systems biology, brain connectivity and dynamism, and brain-body interrelationships.
Her main research interests are in addressing autism and various other chronic brain conditions as “dynamic encephalopathies” (that can change) rather than as “static encephalopathies” (that are fixed for life) and in how environmental vulnerability affects brain and body health and function in an ongoing fashion, and not just before birth. Therefore she takes three approaches.
- Taking a whole body systems approach to how autism emerges — or not — in infants at high risk for autism (because of having an older sibling on the spectrum);
- Developing a multi-modal brain imaging and biomarker approach to studying the interface between metabolic/immune disturbances and altered brain signaling which could (for many at least) be the “ground zero” of autism, and
- Applying these approaches to the systems biology of improvement and recovery in autism and in other situations where complex systems are multiply challenged.
She has recently trained in the Anat Baniel Method due to the great sophistication it offers in opening options for children with special needs (and everyone else) and for its insight into the fundamental importance of movement for transforming and upgrading brain function; she is building toward incorporating this dimension into her research and writing.
Dr. Herbert is committed to expanding how we think about autism, the brain, medicine, biology and the planetary crisis we are in, through both scientific research and public-oriented writing, speaking and communication. Her independent work is now organized through a suite of three Higher Synthesis projects: Health, Foundation and Works. She is also co-chair of the Medical Advisory Board of the Canary Kids Movie project, which will prospectively document improvement and recovery in several significant chronic childhood illnesses through both film and rigorous scientifically grounded testing, and develop an education campaign to open these options to many more people.