The training model of the Center for Innovation and Leadership in Special Education is designed to foster research skills in the fields of special education and neurodevelopmental disabilities. Skill areas emphasized in the fellowship include not only collaboration in research, but also development of independent research, manuscript and grant preparation, critical review of published research, and presentation of research results.
Fellows will develop their own capstone research projects within the fields of special education and/or neurodevelopmental disabilities. Fellows will also have the opportunity to present data from their research collaborations at local, regional, national, and international meetings. Research opportunities are available through the mentorship of faculty members and researchers throughout the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins research community.
The Kennedy Krieger Institute provides fellows a rich environment for immersion in leading edge research, from basic science to classroom settings. Examples of several Kennedy Krieger centers that will provide the infrastructure for fellows' research projects are listed below.
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC)
The IDDRC (P30 HD24061), is an NIH-funded service facility grant at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. It is intended to foster and extend research relevant to intellectual and developmental disabilities of all kinds throughout the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins University community. The IDDRC includes the following research “cores”: Administration (including biostatistics), Behavioral Science, Neuroscience, Genetics, and Neuroimaging. Fellows may consult with faculty experts in these areas as they participate in and design their own research projects.
The NBRU, a research unit complementary to the IDDRC, has been supported by the National Center for Research Resources of NIH as part of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, an NIH/NCRR CTSA Program (UL1-RR025005). This unit provides support for any behavioral and cognitive assessments, acquisition of neuroimaging and EEG, and fine-grained analysis of movement. IDDRC faculty and staff provide advice, consultation, and mentoring to facilitate the work of investigators accessing the NBRU. This service has involved assistance with the design of behavioral training and cognitive assessment protocols required for successful completion of NBRU-supported investigations.
The Neuropsychology Research Lab is dedicated to clinical research in the science of brain-behavior relationships, with particular emphasis in working with children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Central to this goal is the maintenance of the Clinical Neuropsychology Database, which captures cognitive assessment data generated by the Neuropsychology Department’s staff of more than 30 licensed psychologists. This division represents the largest outpatient pediatric psychological and neuropsychological assessment service in the nation, completing over 2,000 diagnostic assessments and 2,000 full psychological/neuropsychological evaluations each year. The database contains clinical assessment data from over 4,500 patient assessment visits. The Research Lab has developed a system in which investigators (following IRB approval) can access this database to extract de-identified datasets to explore a wide variety of research questions designed to facilitate evidence-based practice. Given the complex and often challenging task of assessing skills and behavior patterns of children with developmental disabilities (including assessment of children with sensory and motor difficulties), assessment strategies include those not readily available by traditional psychometric techniques. The Neuropsychology service thus provides a non-invasive means of measuring functional development of the nervous system that can be used in conjunction with other diagnostic methods (neuroimaging, electrophysiology, genetics, and movement analysis), and as a method of outcome assessment for clinical intervention trials of all kinds.
The Neuropsychology Research Lab has significantly expanded the use of technology to modernize and streamline data acquisition from clinical care to allow for greater evidence-based use of neuropsychological assessment procedures in clinical and research activities. The Lab introduced the use of electronic patient data collection in conjunction with Neuropsychology Research Lab activities, and developed an electronic pre-visit patient data collection system that is now used to collect patient background information (e.g., referral concerns, developmental milestones, family medical history) and standardized ratings of behavioral symptoms and academic concerns in advance of assessment appointments. Research Lab investigators have further expanded the use of electronic data collection technology to obtain school-related information and behavioral/emotional ratings from teachers. Teacher ratings and behavioral reports are an essential source of information for neuropsychological assessment, and will increasingly be a mandatory consideration for several conditions (e.g., ADHD) with the release of DSM-5 in 2013.
The F.M. Kirby Research Center for Functional Brain Imaging is a child-friendly brain imaging facility, opened in 1999. The Center is located on the lobby level at Kennedy Krieger Institute. The center is equipped with two 3T Philips Gyroscan MR scanners and a 7.0 Tesla Philips Achieva System scanner. The 7.0 Tesla scanner is one of less than 50 in the world that are available for use with humans, and investigators at Kennedy Krieger are among the few in the world exploring brain imaging studies in children using this type of scanner. All Kirby Center scanners are dedicated for full-time research use. The Center contains the most up-to-date equipment available to ensure accurate imaging without sedation through the use of a mock scanner in which the children will be trained by experienced child behavioral psychologists, and the shortest bore magnets, which allow the child to maintain eye contact with his/her caregiver, thereby making the child feel more at ease.
The Interactive Autism Network represents a highly innovative application of online data collection from families of children with autism spectrum disorders all over the world. With data collected from over 43,000 participants, the network is a resource that provides doctors, educators, psychologists, and therapists with the most up-to-date information about behavior, cognition, and functioning in children with autism, again facilitating more data-informed practice.