Research Objectives

The overarching objective of the Phyllis Green and Randolph Cōwen Institute is a developmental understanding of the multiple causal factors that interact in complex ways to shape brain development and behavior from infancy into young adulthood.

A primary aim of the Institute is to harness the burgeoning neuroscience literature on brain development, which is predominantly based on model organisms such as animals, and apply those insights to questions that are relevant to neuropsychiatric disorders that affect children and adolescents.

Research Areas

Studies conducted within the Institute focus on:

  • The identification of neurobiological markers that can serve as indicators of risk for childhood mental disorders and/or abnormal brain functioning, in the same way that cholesterol levels indicate the risk of heart disease;
  • The effects of childhood treatment with medication on neuroanatomy in adulthood in parallel with studies of the effects of the same medications on brain development in young laboratory rats; and
  • Testing theories of the causes and brain mechanisms involved in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety Disorders, and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Visit our A-Z Disorder Guide more information on these and other disorders.

Neuroimaging Methods

The Phyllis Green and Randolph Cōwen Institute for Pediatric Neuroscience utilizes a variety of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) methodologies to capture images of the brain for analysis. Incorporating the information gathered from all of these MRI methods can provide a comprehensive view of the human brain.

Each of these methods collects images of the brain in a particular way that focuses on either the structure or the functioning of the brain.

  • Anatomical MRI is used to visualize the anatomical structures of the brain, such as the cortex, amygdala, or hippocampus, by providing detailed structural images. By measuring changes in the shape and volume of regions of the brain, anatomical abnormalities that are associated with specific neuropsychiatric illnesses can be identified.
  • Functional MRI (fMRI) measures signal changes in the brain that are caused by changing neural activity. By tracking the differences in neural activity during the performance of tasks, distinct abnormalities in the way that the brain functions in individuals with a particular disorder can be detected.
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) can be used to trace the anatomical connections between various regions of the brain. Disruption of these anatomical connections can disrupt coordinated functioning between brain regions and thus, distinct abnormalities of the brain’s functionality can be assessed.