Novel Approach That Stimulates Cells’ DNA Repair Mechanisms May Combat a Leading Cause of Autism Spectrum Disorders
Researchers report promising results in cells from patients with fragile X syndrome.
ALAN & LORRAINE BRESSLER
Warren Building 624
Massachusetts General Hospital
55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114
Dr. Joseph Biederman, an internationally renowned researcher who is regarded as the father of pediatric psychopharmacology and founding director of the Alan and Lorraine Bressler Clinical and Research Program for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Mass General, passed away in early January. His research revolutionized the field of Child Psychiatry. By 2007, he was the most cited psychiatrist in all of medicine and one of the most productive researchers at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Biederman mentored countless clinical researchers at Mass General and internationally. We, his colleagues, are immensely grateful to have been taught by and practiced with him; we will strive to continue his legacy of innovation, scholarship, and fierce advocacy for patients and their families.
The Alan and Lorraine Bressler Clinical and Research Program for Autism Spectrum Disorder is dedicated to three missions:
Autism Spectrum Disorder are characterized by difficulty with social interactions, communication and behavioral skills. Our program offers complete psychiatric evaluation, including psychopharmacological, neuropsychological, behavioral and social service consultations, for patients with ASD.
The Bressler Program provides comprehensive psychiatric assessments with a specialized psychiatrist for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
When you contact our program, a coordinator will ask you a number of questions regarding:
You also receive a packet with additional questions to be completed for your first appointment. The coordinator will answer any questions you have about the program, facilitate registration and help schedule your appointment.
During the first appointment, you will have a consultation with a specialized psychiatrist. Depending on your individual needs, the psychiatrist may recommend you have consultations with other specialists as needed.
Our specialists will monitor your care plan, adjust medications as necessary for maximum effectiveness and serve as a focal point for synthesizing information.
Autism spectrum disorder is a constellation of psychological conditions characterized by difficulty with social interactions, communication and behavioral skills. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) include autism, Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). Recent estimates suggest that Autism Spectrum Disorder may affect as many as one in 100 children.
Some children show signs and symptoms very early, but many are not diagnosed until they enter school. They may exhibit many or only a few of the characteristic ASD traits, and these behaviors may be mild or pronounced.
Characteristic ASD behaviors include:
Parents and teachers are often the first to notice signs and symptoms of these disorders. It is important to seek evaluation as early as possible, because early intervention can have a beneficial effect in reducing symptoms and improving the child’s ability to learn and function.
Alan and Lorraine Bressler were passionate about giving back to the Boston-area community where they lived for more than half a century and raised three daughters. Lorraine is a long-time overseer of the Museum of Fine Arts, where the couple created a named gallery. Alan, who passed away in September 2012, was a trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In addition to art and music, the couple supported education through the Boston Latin School Association and other Boston education projects. Over the last decade, the Bresslers became aware of another pressing community need.
The Bresslers knew that Joseph Biederman, MD, and his colleagues in the Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD Program at Mass General were studying how treatment of co-occurring psychiatric conditions can enable individuals with high-functioning autism to reach their potential and lead fulfilling lives. The Biederman team’s research was prompted by their observation that about 15% of the young people they were treating for ADHD, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder had this form of autism.
“Dr. Biederman and his team were developing a system of coordinated care to provide practical solutions for families dealing with these challenges,” said Alan Bressler in a 2010 interview. “That approach made sense to us, so we began a discussion of how we could support his efforts.” The couple’s overture soon led to the creation of the Alan and Lorraine Bressler Clinical and Research Program for Autism Spectrum Disorder at Mass General. The program opened to patients in October 2007. It is one of only a few in the country to provide comprehensive psychiatric evaluation of children and adults with high-functioning autism and to focus on treating their psychiatric conditions.
“The program made possible by the Bresslers is extraordinary on many levels,” says Dr. Biederman, founding director of the Bressler Program. “In many cases, young people can learn to manage and live with the symptoms of high-functioning autism. But if such a child is inattentive because of ADHD, or agitated, aggressive or violent because of bipolar disorder, teachers cannot reach the child, and he or she is likely to fail in school and function poorly in work, social and family life.”
Dr. Biederman and colleagues have found that with proper psychiatric treatment, their patients with autism can take fuller advantage of educational, social skills and vocational programs.
Patients come from all over the country to seek evaluation and treatment. “Before the Bressler Program existed, many parents of children with high-functioning autism were at their wits’ end, diagnostically confused and unable to find programs that offered effective treatment,” says Gagan Joshi, MD, scientific director of the Bressler Program. “The Bressler Program offers them a ‘home,’ where their child is fully understood and can receive treatment and support well into adulthood.”
“We knew that supporting this renowned group of psychiatrists and psychologists would yield benefits far beyond what anyone could have imagined, and this has already begun to happen,” said Alan Bressler in the 2010 interview. “We hope that the program will become a national model.” Since the number of referrals exceeds current clinical capacity, the family also hopes that others will step forward to support the program so that the team can help more families and conduct further research.
For 80 years, Mass General's Psychiatry Department has provided the highest quality patient care through pioneering research.
Resources for patients and families including educational programs and information about mental health issues from the Department of Psychiatry.
For 80 years we've provided the highest quality patient care, conducted pioneering research and educated professionals in the field.
Researchers report promising results in cells from patients with fragile X syndrome.
Though the term "autism" first appeared around 1911, very little was known or medically researched about autism spectrum disorder until the late 20th century. New discoveries and advancements continue to be made today to help individuals on the spectrum achieve their full potential.
Research also provides new mechanistic insights into how this fentanyl-induced autism-like behavior occurs. However, there is no current evidence that fentanyl is associated with a similar effect in humans.
A study in mice may provide new insights into human interactions and advance research related to autism spectrum disorder and other neurocognitive conditions.
An estimated 20% of teens and young adults who seek treatment for addiction may have previously unrecognized social impairment characteristics of an autism spectrum disorder.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have shown that the brains of young men with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have low levels of a protein that appears to play a role in inflammation and metabolism.
The integration of patient care and clinical research has been a hallmark of the Department of Psychiatry for more than 30 years. Today, the department has the largest clinical research program in the hospital, with studies at the forefront of neuroscience, molecular biology and genetics.