Intellectual and developmental disabilities encompass a broad range of childhood disorders that lead to deficits in cognitive, motor and/or behavioral function. As a group, these disorders affect approximately 15 percent of children, yet we know little of their neurological, neurobehavioral or genetic underpinnings.
New molecular, biological, genetic and neurobehavioral/neuroimaging approaches to the fundamental questions of ontogenesis of the nervous system have recently improved our understanding of the origin and pathophysiology of a number of neurodevelopmental disorders. Human and animal genome decoding has opened up new opportunities for studying these disorders in combination with cellular and functional approaches.
Technologies have emerged to assay all functionally significant polymorphisms in an individual with a single test. Proteomic profiling approaches have begun to parallel the sensitivity of mRNA profiling, and advanced electrophysiological and imaging techniques allow the functional analysis of distinct genetic phenotypes.
Taken together, these approaches demonstrate a clear link between dysregulation of basic brain development and neurodevelopmental disorders, and provide clear evidence of the need for a multidisciplinary approach to intellectual and developmental disabilities research. This involves highly-specialized, integrated teams of developmental neuroscientists, geneticists, child neurologists, developmental pediatricians, pediatricians, child psychologists and neuropsychologists. These teams work together to elucidate the physiological basis of brain malformations in children and the cellular/molecular mechanisms underlying neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Children’s DC-IDDRC program reflects this approach, as it includes investigators who synergize to establish multidisciplinary research programs involving distinct, but complementary experimental approaches focused on different areas of intellectual and developmental disabilities research.
The DC-IDDRC program at Children's has provided a platform for continuous and exponential growth of three major research areas, including neuroscience, genetics and behavioral sciences. This has resulted in a four-fold increase in the total number of DC-IDDRC investigators (currently more than 90) from the establishment of this program to present.
Children’s DC-IDDRC provides access to state-of-the-art and cost effective core research expertise, services and equipment in all areas of intellectual and developmental disabilities research. The broad range of new technologies offered through our six core services provides us with the unique ability to make advanced experimental approaches available to our investigators. Molecular genetic/proteomic, cellular imaging, neuroimaging and neuropsychological/behavioral techniques are expensive and often inaccessible to individually-funded investigators. These methods require a comprehensive knowledge of up-and-coming scientific advances as well as complex and time-consuming training.