Boston Children's Hospital's Psychopharmacology Clinic team members are engaged in important scientific research with real implications for better predicting, understanding, treating and one day preventing mental illness in children and young adults. Some of our research projects include:
Looking for biomarkers in developmental disorders
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and Evoked Response Potentials (ERP) are non-invasive ways to stimulate the brain and measure how its neurons become stimulated, or “excited”; how certain processes in and within the brain’s cortex are inhibited; and how readily connections between certain neurons can be altered by experiences. Boston Children’s researchers are exploring these measures as potential biomarkers that can be tracked in autism spectrum disorders, other developmental disorders and in schizophrenia.
TMS and ERP biomarkers may be able to aid in early identification of psychiatric and neurological disorders—and might also offer a new way to measure how well treatments are correcting the neurochemical abnormalities causing these conditions. TMS biomarkers may be able to aid in early identification of psychiatric and neurological disorders—and might also offer a new way to measure how well treatments are correcting the neurochemical abnormalities causing these conditions.
Developing a computer game that improves emotional regulation
Regulate and Gain Emotional Control (RAGE-Control) is a computer video game to help children improve their ability to regulate emotions. Disorders that affect emotional regulation—especially those conditions that are accompanied by aggressive outbursts—can be very disabling, and are often treated with powerful medications, including antipsychotic drugs. Using insights from the neuroscience of emotional regulation, the RAGE-Control game teaches children and adolescents to gain better control of their emotional responses by achieving certain targets.
At the premise of the RAGE-Control project is Boston Children’s researchers’ belief that a deficit in emotional regulation is similar to a learning disorder—it can be treated with intensive training of anger and frustration management techniques, reducing the need for psychiatric medication. The game is currently being tested in a clinical trial at Boston Children’s. Read a Boston Globe article about the RAGE-Control game.
Enabling early detection of psychosis and pre-psychosis in children
Boston Children’s is a clinical study site for the wide-scale Schizophrenia Prodrome Research Project. In addition to recruiting participants for this important study, we are extending screening services for psychosis to include younger children, as well. The goal of this project is to develop early identification methods that will enable earlier intervention—and eventually, to prevent children with prepsychosis symptoms from developing actual psychosis.
Boston Children's Department of Psychiatry takes an evidence-based approach to mental health care: Our therapies have been proven effective through diligent scientific and clinical research. We believe that the foundation of any psychiatric treatment plan is psychosocial treatment—the use of “talk therapy,” whether one-on-one between the child and clinician; in a group setting with other young patients; or in family therapy. “Psychosocial” refers to the process of a child's personal psychological development while learning to interact with other people and the world at large.
If your child isn’t making adequate progress overcoming symptoms with psychosocial therapy—or if your child is diagnosed with a mental illness, such as schizophrenia, that requires treatment other than talk therapy, medication may be an important component of treatment. Our clinicians are well versed in the many psychiatric drugs used to treat:
Working closely with you and your family as key members of the treatment team, we can identify the medications most likely to make the greatest difference for your child.