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About our laboratory

Welcome to the Neuroscience of Risk and Development (NeRD) Laboratory in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Boston Children’s Hospital!

This lab is directed by Maria Jalbrzikowski, PhD We use a developmental framework to identify biological mechanisms that underlie severe psychiatric disorders and to find risk markers associated with these disorders. Specifically, we:

  1. assess how youth at risk for developing severe psychiatric disorders deviate from normative neurodevelopmental trajectories;
  2. take a ‘genomics-first’ approach by studying neurobiological mechanisms and risk factors that influence psychiatric vulnerability in 22q11.2 Microdeletion Syndrome (22q11DS), a highly penetrant genetic risk variant for developmental neuropsychiatric disorders;
  3. use big data approaches (i.e., electronic health records, genomics, data from smartphones) to better understand how and why the transition from childhood to adulthood is a dynamic period in which health trajectories can rapidly change;
  4. test out new technologies to make biological markers of risk accessible to all.
Two people sitting at a desk with two computer screens.
Two women stand on either side of an MRI screen.
A family holds their child on top of their knee as they pose in front of a hand-drawn map.

Mission Statement

Central to all goals in our laboratory is a desire to improve the lives of youth at greatest risk for or with severe psychiatric disorders. This need arises from:

  1. family experiences with mental illness, witnessing the suffering of loved ones going through a traumatic experience with which there is no easy way out of;
  2. understanding that scientists, clinicians, and society can have a stronger positive impact early after or prior to the onset of psychiatric illness
  3. a perseverative nature that will not allow us to give up on solving a problem, no matter how difficult it is; and
  4. a true love for learning about how brain and behavior work in sync (or not).