neurodevelopment

PRESCHOOLERS

Emerging neurocognitive skills can be assessed in children as young as 3 years-old.  However, preschoolers don’t have the same skill-set as older children, adolescents and adults, so the evaluation of preschool-aged children requires special training.  For several years, we were involved in two major research studies of preschool-aged children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that were funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).  The first study was the NIMH Preschool ADHD Treatment Study (PATS) [link], and more recently, the Queens College Preschool Project (QCPP) [link].  Amongst several important findings, we discovered that changes in neurocognitive development predicted improvements (or lack thereof) in ADHD symptoms over a period of three years [link].  Thus, if you are interested in having your preschooler evaluated to establish his/her baseline level of neurocognitive development, we are well trained to work with this unique population.

SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN

Adult-like neurocognitive abilities begin to materialize between the ages of 7-12 years during elementary school.  A baseline neurocognitive evaluation obtained during childhood can thus reassure parents and teachers that a child is developing as expected, as well as help identify and monitor neurodevelopmental concerns.  If we suspect any problems, we can then make recommendations for intervention in a timely manner.  Further, assessing children requires developmental issues be taken into consideration when interpreting a child’s performance: many factors can influence a child’s developmental maturation including genetics, medical history, home and family environment, behavioral problems, and sociocultural factors.  We can help parents understand these issues in the context of their child’s abilities and limitations, and assist in monitoring your child’s development during this critical period.

ADOLESCENTS

Adolescence is a period of intensive physical, emotional and social change, and the academic and social demands of high school are stronger than ever.  At the same time, the teen brain is “still under construction,” and striking changes in brain maturation take place during the teen years [link].  We can assess some of these changes in the clinic.  As an example, in a series of research studies we carried out with colleagues in New York, we discovered that certain neurocognitive abilities were associated with a reduction in attention problems during adolescence [link], and that this relationship was influenced by genetics but only during later stages of development [link].  The more we learn about your teen, the better we may be able to understand and monitor his or her cognitive abilities (and vulnerabilities), which could influence your teen’s longer-term psychological health and well-being.

NEURODEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS

Across these age groups, our evaluation can be used to determine the existence and/or severity of major neurodevelopmental disorders including the following:

Learning problems (e.g., dyslexia)

ADHD

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Depression

Anxiety

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and concussion

Social-emotional problems

Neurological changes