Minds for Minds
Unlocking Autism Together

Minds for Minds is a non-profit organisation that is


to make sense of the world I live in is very hard

and throughout my whole life it never seems to get any


to learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder

More than 1% of New Zealanders have
Autism Spectrum Disorder

The limited understanding of how minds affected by autism work, means parents and families can find it very hard to provide support for those affected.

The Minds for Minds research network has set out to find the causes of autism in order to help with diagnosis and contribute to the development of treatment options. Although just recently launched, the network already encompasses a wide range of research activities and is set to expand further. Minds for Minds aims to be to a place for all those working on autism in New Zealand to meet, share ideas, resources and build effective collaborations.

One of the formation projects of the network is a genetic study into DNA variations that may cause autism. This study goes hand in hand with the investigation of the effects of gut microbial communities and how variation in these communities might contribute to autism. The insights gained from this work will inform us of how the wiring in the brain differs in autism.

This research is part of and contributes to, the international scientific research effort into autism spectrum disorder.

Our research team


Ian Kirk


Jessie Jacobsen

Associate Professor

Klaus Lehnert


Johanna Montgomery


Rosamund Hill


Russell Snell

Associate Professor

Karen Waldie


Mike Taylor

Professor Ian Kirk

A cognitive neuroscientist in the School of Psychology, he is also an Associate Director of the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland. His interest is in the connectivity and plasticity in the human brain and in how these support cognitive processes. He is also interested in differences in cognitive processes in people with ASD.

Doctor Jessie Jacobsen

Is a Rutherford Discovey Fellow with an interest in the genetics underlying human conditions and their biological interpretation. She has been repatriated from the Centre for Human Genetic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital & Harvard Medical School in the USA to help establish a genetic research programme for autism spectrum disorder in New Zealand. Jessie was a former MacDiarmid Young Scientist of the Year & Auckland University Young Alumna of the Year.

Associate Professor Klaus Lehnert

A functional biologist with an interest in understanding the molecular mechanism through which genetic variations cause disease. He is applying the computational analysis of large and complex data to identify candidate genetic variations. He uses gene function and molecular pathway analysis to prioritise the candidate variations for functional testing and to identify the disease-causing variant. His ultimate aim is to unravel the pathological processes leading to autism spectrum disorder at molecular level and to identify therapeutics that can modulate these processes.

Doctor Johanna Montgomery

The Principal Investigator of the Synaptic Function Research Group at the Centre for Brain Research. Herresearch focuses on understanding how synapses in the brain function and how alterations in synapse function manifest into neuronal disorders. She collaborates closely with Stanford neuroscientists and together they have undertaken ground breaking research examining how synapse dysfunction relates to autism.

Doctor Rosamund Hill

A consultant working at Auckland City Hospital and in private practice with a passion for understanding the ASD condition. She has a son with severe autism. She has previously completed a research degree (M.D.) at the University of Auckland Medical School.

Professor Russell Snell

A world renowned geneticist who was involved in isolating the genetics behind Huntington's disease & other gene blockbusters such as Myotonic Dystrophy and Tuberous Sclerosis - a genius! Has a long-term interest in finding human disease genes and variations in genes in general with a focus on the molecular genetics of disease, in particular neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's & Alzheimers and how the genes behind the illnesses are inherited.

Associate Professor Karen Waldie

A developmental neuropsychologist in the School of Psychology at the University of Auckland. Her autism research focuses on the neural bases and long-term outcomes of neurodevelopmental disorders like ASD. Her experimental work combines techniques from cognitive neuroscience (fMRI and EEG) and clinical neuropsychology. She is also involved with 3 national longitudinal studies: Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (DMHDS); Growing Up in NZ; and Auckland Birthweight Collaborative (ABC) Study.

Dr Mike Taylor

A microbiologist interested in the ecology of complex microbial communities. Having worked in the past on microbes associated with various marine and terrestrial animals, he is now applying the same techniques to study the microbial communities within humans. Bacteria and other microorganisms in the human gut have a profound impact on health and there is evidence for a link between gut bacteria and the occurrence of autism.

Unlocking Autism

For neurologist, Dr Rosamund Hill, it is more than a field of research - her own son, Claude, is profoundly autistic. Rosamund invites us into Claude's world as she explains the motivation behind Minds for Minds.

Watch here

in New Zealand. A team of the country's top scientific

minds are currently facilitating scientific research

funded by public

spaces are like a foreign planet to

me because I see and hear everything so differently to

other people and no one seems to understand that

donations that will increase understanding and better-

targeted treatment options for those affected. But to

continue the research we need people to donate, because


Our focus is to identify the causes of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. We believe that a better understanding will improve treatment options. We will apply the latest, most effective scientific approaches - including the sequencing of entire genomes of individuals, sequencing gut microbial communities and functional testing of neurons. All donations, small or large, will directly fund scientific research carried out by our New Zealand-based research team.

Donate online via givealittle.co.nz

Donate now

Or, write us an email

Contact us

Donate by Bank Transfer

Account name:

Minds For Minds Trust

Account Number:


the more research we do the better understanding we

will have. We are currently recruiting volunteers to take

part in research studies, so if you are interested in being

trapped in my mind with no way of communicating what I

am thinking makes me feel like an alien stuck in someone

else's body but I'm not

involved, register yourself or

You can currently register to be part of a project that is looking for genetic variations that cause autism. Ideally we are looking for participants that are willing to contribute DNA (saliva or blood) and if possible stool and/or urine samples.

Register now

someone in your care. Or to sign up for our newsletter

The Minds for Minds newsletter is a research-focussed publication that is currently distributed bi-annually by email. It contains information about autism research being done in New Zealand and overseas as well as updates from our wider Minds for Minds team.

You can sign up for the newsletter here:

Sign up here

to keep track of our progress, enter your email address

and we'll keep you updated. Because with your help,

we can unlock autism together.