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Research is an important component of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program's (LEAP) mission. Each clinical evaluation yields valuable information. Such data (after being privacy protected, to insure anonymity) can be used to answer scientific questions that have implications for the patients we see.

LOGIC Study

The cornerstone of LEAP's research initiative led by Dr. Alysa Doyle is the Longitudinal Study of Genetic Influences on Cognition (or LOGIC). This project has allowed us to build a permanent but flexible research infrastructure at LEAP, including a database to organize our enormous repository of information and a mechanism whereby patients can contribute to research.

Through this study patients can allow us to use information collected from their assessments, fill out additional questionnaires and even provide DNA for genetic analyses. The fluidity between the clinical and research realms that LOGIC represents resulted in this project winning the 2014 hospital-wide Clinical Research Day Team Award at Mass General.

To date, LOGIC has collected data from over 1000 children and adolescents. We have used this information to publish papers and garner grants from various foundations and the National Institutes of Health. Some of the questions we are interested in include:

  • What factors contribute to risk for further difficulties versus resilience/positive outcomes in children with learning and emotional concerns?
    • How does neuropsychological functioning play a role in risk and resilience?
    • Does neuropsychological functioning contribute to social, emotional and behavioral problems?
    • Does social functioning contribute to emotional and behavioral problems?
  • What are the patterns of overlapping and distinct neuropsychological impairments across different learning and emotional disorders?
  • Can we capitalize on discoveries in the field of genetics to help future generations of patients?
    • Can emerging genetic information contribute to better models of how neuropsychological impairment and psychopathology develop?
    • Can it help us better identify and support children and adolescents at risk for further difficulties?

This research infrastructure has also allowed us to develop collaborations across the hospital, including:

  • Understanding neuropsychological functioning in children with pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis
  • Developing a new measure to assess processing speed difficulties in youth

Research Plans

Our team is aiming to grow the baseline sample of LOGIC to 3,000 youth. A data set of this size with information about genetics, neuropsychology, learning and emotional problems will allow us to answer the questions above and learn more about conditions like autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, mood disorders, anxiety disorders and psychosis.

We also aim to launch the longitudinal follow-up of the LOGIC study. In this arm of the project, we will meet with youth enrolled in the study over time. This follow-up will allow us to learn more about why some children do well while others continue to struggle. Understanding different trajectories should also create new opportunities for early identification of those at risk.

Finally, we are using our database to train a new generation of clinical researchers. The Fellows who rotate through LEAP can develop or contribute to research projects relevant to the LEAP population. Papers currently under development include understanding sensory processing and social difficulties across a range of conditions.

Funding

We are grateful for the funding that has allowed us to grow our research program.  We are particularly indebted to the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT for their ongoing support, as well as to the David Judah Foundation for helping us to launch our research program and to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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