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Researcher | Research Overview

Dr. Gonzalez-Heydrich, a clinical and research psychiatrist, focuses his research in broad areas early Schizophrenia and risk for Schizophrenia and technological games to develop emotional strength.

The research in Schizophrenia has joined together a multidisciplinary group of investigators in a discovery cycle whose purpose is to translate basic insights into the pathophysiology of psychosis into treatments.  The cycle starts with the development of screening instruments to identify children at risk for schizophrenia as early as possible. These children are being referred for treatment to the Developmental Neuropsychiatry Clinic (DNP) and offered inclusion in ongoing studies. These studies provide phenotyping to describe their behavioral and psychological symptoms and to characterize biomarkers of risk. Among the biomarkers are MRI measures of inflammation and neurophysiologic measures of early information processing and synaptic plasticity. Techniques for evaluating the effectiveness of new treatments are being developed. These integrate the neurophysiologic biomarkers being studied into cognitive/social emotional training as predictors of progress in the training and as an outcome measure to understand the effects of the training.

The research on technological games to enhance development of emotional strength has developed a number of technologies aimed at letting children and adolescents learn how to better regulate their emotions under cognitive and social challenge. Two clinical trials have been completed of a technology developed in the program, a video game called RAGE-Control, including one randomized control trial. Both clinical trials have shown the RAGE-Control game strongly augments the effects of psychotherapy aimed at developing emotional regulation skills.  

Researcher | Research Background

Joseph Gonzalez-Heydrich, MD is Director of the Developmental Neuropsychiatry Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital and an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School. He did his undergraduate and medical school at Johns Hopkins, his residency training at UCLA, Stanford, and Boston Children’s Hospital. He has extensive experience designing and running clinical trials and other scientific studies with children who have psychiatric disorders co-occuring with developmental disorders or epilepsy. He has also assembled collaborations to develop computer applications to help patients and families facing serious psychiatric or medical illnesses. These include a series of computer games and technological toys designed to build emotional strength in patients as well as typically developing children. Most recently, he has brought together a multidisciplinary effort to study childhood psychosis and the developmental antecedents to Schizophrenia at Boston Children’s Hospital.


Researcher | Publications