The mission of the IDDRC is to expand research relevant to developmental disabilities with the aim of prevention, to the maximum extent possible, and treatment, when prevention is not possible. The scope includes both the primary conditions causing developmental disorders and their secondary impairments and health concerns. The IDDRC fosters communication and coordination, as well as growth, by attracting new scientists to research related to intellectual and other developmental disabilities.
Our research setting within a clinically active environment serves to foster, through ongoing contacts with affected individuals and their families, a high level of motivation and an awareness of the broad range of unmet needs. Such juxtaposition also gives rise to innovative, clinically relevant research. Working in the same setting creates an effective collaboration between basic and clinical sciences, a “bi-directional integration” between those who work at the laboratory level and those who work directly with affected children and adults on a daily basis.
Because many primary causes of developmental disorders are genetic in origin, we have invested considerable effort in identifying genotype-phenotype relationships and the biochemical pathways affecting brain structure, neurochemistry, and function. Faculty with expertise in cognitive development, neuropsychology, behavioral psychology, and biological psychiatry are encouraged to collaborate with peers in genetics, neurochemistry, and the multiple modalities of neuroimaging. These collaborations have produced multidisciplinary studies focused on Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, Rett syndrome, and many rare conditions, as well as gene discovery and genetic/epigenetic mechanisms associated with developmental disabilities.
While genotype certainly plays a major role in developmental disorders, the IDDRC also supports research focused on environmental factors known to cause, or contribute increased risk for, developmental disabilities. Non-genetic concerns under investigation include perinatal brain injury, neuropsychological outcomes in children receiving treatment for cancer, chronic aberrant behavior caused by a variety of intellectual and developmental disabilities, neonatal stroke, cerebral palsy, intrauterine inflammation-induced brain injury, and pediatric traumatic brain injury.