Department of Neurology Research and Innovation

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Louis_KunkelWhen you come to Boston Children’s Hospital, you’re coming to the birthplace of child neurology. In 1920 Bronson Crothers, MD, was appointed to lead the nation’s first pediatric Neurology Service. Since then, our pediatric neurologists have tirelessly worked to improve care.

Innovations—in both basic science and our clinics—play a critical role in your child’s health, and our team is constantly creating new programs, tests, processes and tools. Some of our earliest innovations centered on prevention, such as proving that obstetrical trauma was linked to brachial plexus palsies and to spinal cord injury.

Many more have stemmed from scientific research: Understanding diseases deeply—even at the cellular or molecular level—leads to new drugs and therapies. For example, today’s treatment trials for boys with Duchenne/Becker muscular dystrophy are based on the discovery by Louis Kunkle, PhD, of dystrophin, the gene and encoded protein that is altered in boys with this condition. And many other innovations, like adding educational consultants to our team who ensure children with educational needs get the support they need to succeed in school, have come from daily interactions between patients, families and our care team.

Learn more about the Neurology research program and team at Boston Children's Hospital.

Autism

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Treating the fundamental basis of autism spectrum disorders: A ray of hope

A host of autism spectrum disorders seem to share the same fundamental basis: Cells in the brain have problems making the right number of stable connections with each other—the “synapses” between neurons. Contrary to previous thinking, recent laboratory research on a related disorder, Rett syndrome, indicates that those cells may actually be able to recover, and a drug can help the wobbly synapses to mature and can actually reverse symptoms.

Boston Children’s clinicians are working to follow up on those leads by testing the drug in children with Rett syndrome. This study represents the first trial of a drug treatment seeking to modify the underlying cause of a disorder with autistic symptoms. Physicians and researchers hope that trials like this will give them clues about how to help not only children with Rett syndrome, but patients with a whole host of other neurological disorders, too.

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Headaches

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Keeping headache care close to home

Scott_Pomeroy Headaches are a common childhood problem that cause parents a lot of worry and lead to tough questions: When does your child need an imaging test? When should he be referred to a neurologist? Since a patient may receive headache care from his pediatrician or with a neurologist, coordinating care can be a challenge. Our team at Boston Children’s wants to make sure that children get the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

In 2009, a group led by Scott Pomeroy, MD, Boston Children’s neurologist-in-chief, and Richard Antonelli, MD, medical director for integrated care, sat down with primary care providers from Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates to develop specific ways to help primary care providers and Boston Children’s neurologists work together to care for our patients.

A major goal of the program is for our neurologists to provide support to primary care providers so that when it’s appropriate, patients can receive headache care from their primary doctors. This approach should also make Boston Children’s Neurology wait times shorter and lower medical costs for families.  

We hope to expand this collaborative care model to other referrers in the near future. In the meantime, it informs what we do with all of our patients: We know how important it is to work closely with our patients’ primary care doctors.

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The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO
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