This article originally appeared in Star Chronicle, a newsletter
published for the Children's Medical Center.
Imagine a child with changeable moods that range from silly to irritable, or
who appears to be very sad for long periods of time. Imagine one who seems to be
"out of sync" with what is going on around him. Imagine a child who acts as if
she does not understand things obvious to others the same age. Where can parents
go to find help?
A group of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School are
focusing on understanding these puzzling behaviors that are often seen in
neurodevelopmental disorders that affect brain function, learning, emotion,
memory and more. The research team appreciates the challenges of diagnosing and
treating children and adolescents with these complex problems. As a result, it
is conducting research to advance knowledge and improve the care of children
affected by these conditions. "Our group is studying three particular disorders
- early onset bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and autism," said Jean Frazier,
MD, vice chair and director of child and adolescent psychiatry and codirector of
the Child and Adolescent NeuroDevelopment Initiative (CANDI), along with David
Kennedy, PhD, director of the Division of Neuroinformatics, Department of
CANDI researchers use MRI scans to assess brain structure and function, DNA
analysis to understand genetic traits, and assessments to evaluate cognition and
behavior in order to better understand how the three groups overlap and differ
in symptoms, genetics and neuroimaging findings. "By studying all three groups,
we hope to discover biomarkers, or biological marks, brain structure differences
and other physiological indicators that might be specific to each diagnosis,"
said Dr. Frazier.
Children and families going through life with these conditions face
tremendous challenges. According to Dr. Frazier, "In partnership with those who
participate in our studies, we can advance our knowledge, improve care and offer
new hope to families."
For more information, call 508-856-5896.