Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center

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The Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania advances research into the causes and treatment of developmental disabilities. One of the IDDRC’s goals is to develop a novel biomarker for language disability in autism. The Center also provides research support to CHOP/Penn faculty, creating and nurturing a true IDD research community. Its investigators mentor and support promising young investigators in IDD research. The IDDRC team also creates research Centers of Excellence to favor interdisciplinary investigations into IDD, and it constructively partners with the IDDRC Network to realize the goals of the IDD branch of the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The Center supports 87 federally funded projects, of which 14 are from the NICHD, and five are foundation-funded projects.

Our theme — Genes, Brain, Behavior — reflects our ongoing effort to understand IDD in three inter-related domains: the genetic anlage which causes a disability or modulates disease severity; the anomalies of brain biochemistry and neurophysiology which accompany genetic changes; and the phenomenological manifestations of these genetic/neurophysiologic alterations which we recognize as clinical manifestations of the IDD. The Center’s rationale for this reductionist approach is that the dissection of a disability into isolated and “simpler” components affords a strategy with which to develop therapies that will prevent, attenuate, or even reverse the devastating consequences of the disorder. Over the next five years, the Center will pursue this aim by deploying these tools: cutting-edge research cores, a focus on translational research, the enormous clinical resources of CHOP/Penn, nurturing a cadre of future leaders, and a strong emphasis on creative partnership with the IDDRC Network.

Research Project Highlights

Here are some of the current studies IDDRC researchers are involved with:

  • Behavioral and epigenetic changes following adolescent oxycodone exposure
  • Electrographic seizure management and neurobehavioral outcomes in critically ill children
  • Longitudinal study of brain development in children with autism
  • Immersive virtual reality to improve police safety in adolescents/adults with autism spectrum disorder
  • An online, genome-first approach to dimensional analysis of developmental brain disorders
  • Magnetic resonance imaging and biomarkers for muscular dystrophy.

IDDRC researchers focus on an expansive list of research topics including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, behavioral disorders, Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, epilepsy, Friedreich Ataxia, HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders, and leukodystrophies, to name a few. The work of the Center is adjusted when necessary to accommodate new discoveries.