The Neurobehavioral Clinical Research Section examines the interplay between genes and the environment in shaping the development of brain and behavior. A major focus of work conducted in the section is on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), one of the most common and heritable childhood mental health problems. ADHD affects around 5-10 percent of all children in the United States and the rates of diagnosis are increasing. While about a quarter of children with ADHD still have the disorder in adulthood, others will experience complete remission, yet we understand little of the factors driving this variable outcome. By combining tools from neuroscience, behavioral and social science, the group is addressing these questions. Their study is based in the Clinical Center of the NIH, and more than 500 children - 300 of whom have ADHD - are assessed every two years at the Clinical Center as they grow into adulthood.
The research of the section focuses on three primary areas. Firstly, researchers aim to identify factors that cause ADHD and contribute to its variable course. By imaging the brain, they identified variable patterns of brain development in adolescence that underpin different clinical outcomes in adulthood. They are now exploring how genomics contribute to these distinct brain trajectories. Secondly, they aim to unravel how the multiple social contexts in which a child is embedded, such as family and schools, interact with neurobiological and genomic factors in ADHD. Finally, they investigate how behavioral and pharmacological treatments for ADHD work in the brain and how treatment response is affected by a child's genotype.
These studies are designed to inform clinical translation. Delineating the genomic and neurobehavioral factors which drive clinical course provides the foundation for tools to predict adult outcome in children with the disorder, allowing the focus of resources to be on those at risk for poor outcome. Understanding how treatments work in the brain could help the researchers develop new, more effective interventions.
Philip Shaw is an Earl Stadtman Investigator at the Neurobehavioral Clinical Research Section of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, United States. His main interest is in the genetic and environmental factors that influence the development of brain and behavior. A focus of his work is the most common neurobehavioral disorder of childhood, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He has degrees in experimental psychology and medicine from Oxford University, and a Ph.D. in psychological medicine from the Institute of Psychiatry in London. He completed residencies in internal medicine and psychiatry in England, and is a member of both the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Psychiatry.
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Last Updated: January 7, 2015