News Releases

Press Release -

UNC-Stanford Project on Brain Development in Fragile X Syndrome Receives $5M Grant Award

The Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research (CIBSR) at Stanford University would like to inform you of an exciting new research project involving families who have a child diagnosed with fragile X syndrome. This innovative, five-year, NIMH funded research project was awarded $5 million in funding in the fall of 2012 and the study is now underway.   

The multi-center study involves the close collaboration of two sites: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. At UNC, the lead investigator is Joseph Piven, MD.  Dr. Piven is an expert on autism, neuroimaging, genetics, intellectual disability, and developmental disorders including but not limited to fragile X syndrome.His research interests include structural MRI, as well as diffusion tensor imaging of the developing brain in autism and fragile X particularly as it relates to development and function. At Stanford, Allan Reiss, MD, is the lead investigator. Dr. Reiss has worked extensively with individuals affected by fragile X syndrome for over 30 years as well as other neurogenetic and neurodevelopmental disorders. His research is focused on determining how genetic and environmental factors affect brain structure and function, and how this ultimately impacts the development and function of persons with these disorders.  A particularly important focus of this work is identifying gene-environment-brain-behavior interactions that have relevance to the development of more specific and effective interventions. 

The current project is a continuation of an initial study of infants and preschoolers with fragile X syndrome where our research groups identified patterns of early abnormal brain growth in children with fragile X syndrome who were between the ages of 1 to 6 years. The new study will follow up with the children from the initial study, who are now between the ages of 8 and 14, as well as enroll a group of new participants between 4 and 13 years of age. The results of this study will have important implications for current and future treatment trials directed at reducing symptoms in individuals affected by fragile X.

Families enrolled in the study will travel either to Chapel Hill, NC, or Palo Alto, CA, for a comprehensive series of developmental assessments.  During the visit each child will also receive an MRI scan either awake, during natural sleep, or with the use of sedation depending on parents’ preference and the child’s capabilities. New participants will make a total of 2 trips to the respective study site approximately 2 years apart (e.g. visits at 4 and 6 years of age). There is no cost for participation as all travel and lodging costs are reimbursed by the study, and all services the study provides are at no charge to the family. In addition, families will receive feedback on the developmental assessments and MRI scan.

For more information, please contact Heidi Bryant (; (919) 966-5278) or Soujanya Gade (; (650)724-2951).

Stanford IRB Protocol #11955
UNC IRB Protocol #02-1194

Coverage of our research in the newss

  • Featured in Science in School - The science of humour and how women and men react differently to it. (PDF)
  • Article recently released in Neurology Now gives hope for families of children with fragile X. (PDF)
  • CIBSR is excited to announce Dr. Allan Reiss has been elected into the Institute of Medicine, a highly prestigous award based on professional achievement.  News from the National Academies
  • CIBSR is pleased to announce that Dr. Shelli Kesler has been chosen as the recipient of the highly prestigious Director's New Innovator Award from NIH. Her research will utilize neuropsychological, imaging and genetic research methods to directly address this issue of cognitive impairment associated with breast cancer treatment.
  • How do nature and nurture influence humor development in adolescents?  The Stanford Daily
  • Brain activity patterns indicates ability to overcome dyslexia.  NIH News
  • Stanford study finds video games activate reward regions of brain in men more than women.
    Press Release: Stanford University School of Medicine, 02/04/08
    "In a first-of-its-kind imaging study, Stanford researchers have shown that the part of the brain that generates rewarding feelings is more activated in men than women during video-game play. These gender differences may help explain why males are more attracted to, and more likely to become 'hooked' on video games than females."

Coverage of our research in the media

  • Imaging study discovers brain development differences in kids with Fragile X syndrome. Stanford Medicine
  • Brain Imaging Shows Kids' PTSD Symptoms Linked To Poor Hippocampus Function - 12/09 CNN Stanford Medicine KCBS Medical News Today E-Science News
  • MSN - Williams Syndrome and Social Fearlessness - 06/09 (PDF)
  • abcNews - 02/05/08
  • KABC-TV (Los Angeles) - 02/06/08
  • CNN News - 02/13/08
  • New York Times - 02/19/08
  • CIBSR is honored to recently have been awarded two new grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH): 9/07
    • The first grant establishes an advanced Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) system at Stanford that will allow researchers to study brain function in children and adults in new and exciting ways. The NIRS system is comfortable to use and allows easy and natural interactions between subjects and researchers during cognitive and behavioral experiments. The NIRS facility will support activities in the Departments of Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Neurology and Radiology at Stanford University. The grant is funded by the National Center for Research Resources, a component of the NIH.
    • The second grant provides funding to share the unique analysis methods developed by CIBSR researchers with the worldwide neuroimaging community. This grant will permit the development of an interactive website, sample brain images, and online documentation for the BrainImageJava (BIJ) software program. BIJ has been an invaluable in-house tool for brain imaging research that has been instrumental in more than 70 scientific papers. This grant directly supports the NIH initiative to actively share proven analysis methods to accelerate health related research. The grant is supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institute of Drug Abuse and National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke within NIH.
  • Researchers from CIBSR present two original imaging studies revealing how gender affects the way a person's brain responds to humor and how personality traits, such as extroversion and introversion, affect the way in which humor is processed. The combined results of these two studies suggest that humor taps into several neural systems associated with gender or personality and help to explain individual differences in humor appreciation, reveals Allan Reiss, MD, Director of CIBSR. Read the recent news release from Stanford Medical School. Read the full article from the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Researchers at CIBSR identify the catechol-O-methyltransferase low-activity allele (COMT(L)) as a risk factor for the decline in prefrontal cortical volume and cognition, as well as psychotic symptoms in adolescence, for a longitudinal study of adolescents with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, elucidating a promising model for identifying bio-markers related to the development of schizophrenia. Read the recent news release from Stanford Medical School. Read the full article from the November issue of Nature Neuroscience.
  • A recent study from the CIBSR in collaboration with investigators at Yale and Brown Universities show that babies born prematurely show the effects years later, with parts of their brains significantly smaller when they are 8 years old. Read the recent news release from Stanford Medical School. Read the press release from the BBC. Listen to the interview about this study on NPR.  Read the full article.
  • A recent CIBSR publication has shown that people with fragile X syndrome have reduced blood levels of a protein vital for brain development and function. These lowered levels are linked to abnormal activity patterns in the brain. The article entitled Frontostriatal deficits in fragile X syndrome: Relation to FMR1 gene expression was published in in March 2004.b Read the full article.
  • Functional MRI research from the CIBSR has shown for the first time that humor modulates mesolimbic reward centers of the brain, specifically the nucleus accumbens, a dopaminergic reward center. The paper entitled Humor Modulates the Mesolimbic Reward Centers was recently published in the prestigeous journal Neuron.  View the press release and full article.
  • In a recent neuroimaging sudy from CIBSR, researchers found brain volume differences between Asperger syndrome and autism. The article, Investigation of Neuroanatomical Differences Between Autism and Asperger Syndrome was recently published in Arch Gen Psychiatry.  Read the full article.
  • A new published article in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that individuals with Williams syndrome, a genetic developmental disorder that causes deficits in visual and spatial functioning but enhanced emotionality and face processing, have a decreased relative cortical volume that parallel these abnormalities. Read the full article.
  • Dr Kiki Chang and his colleagues recently published an article in the Archives of General Psychiatry to study children and adolescents with bipolar disorder. Chang used functional magnetic resonance imaging with cognitive and affective tasks to examine possible abnormalities in specific areas of the brain thought to be involved in the development of this disorder.  Read the full article in Archives of General Psychiatry.