The Brown Center For The

Study Of Children At Risk

Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk
50 Holden Street
Providence RI 02908

Academic Administration:
(401) 453-7640

Clinical Services:
(401) 274-1122
x8936 or x8935

Contact Us


Prenatal Substance Exposure

Infant Developmental Environment and Lifestyle Study (IDEAL-II, School Age)

The rapidly escalating abuse of methamphetamine in the United States, places a sense of urgency on understanding the consequences of methamphetamine use during pregnancy for the developing child. In 2002 we began the Infant Development, Environment and Lifestyle Study (IDEAL) which is the only prospective, longitudinal NIH study of prenatal methamphetamine exposure and child outcome. IDEAL was designed as a community research network with scientific leadership, management, and data analysis conducted by the Brown Center for Children and recruitment and data collection in Iowa, Oklahoma, California, and Hawaii where methamphetamine use by pregnant women is prevalent. We are now following these 408 children into school to age 7 years. During the early school years, the neural networks develop in the brain that relate to executive functioning, such as motivation, attention, memory, inhibitory control, visual motor integration, and motor control memory. These abilities are building blocks for the academic skills needed for school success. Early identification of deficits in executive function processes enhances our ability to provide appropriate interventions for these children before they experience school failure. For more information contact: Sheri DellaGrotta at

Maternal Lifestyle Study (MLS)

In the mid 1980’s cocaine use by pregnant women was identified as a major public health problem.  Yet, little is known about the long-term developmental outcome of cocaine-exposed children.  MLS is the largest prospective study of cocaine-exposed children.  Approximately 1400 children were enrolled in the study at birth in Detroit, Memphis, Miami, and Providence.  These children are now turning 16 and we are studying how prenatal cocaine exposure by itself and in combination with other drug and environmental factors affects their cognitive, school, psychological, behavioral and emotional outcomes.  For more information contact: Linda Lagasse at


We are conducting two types of neuroimaging research in collaboration with on-campus departments at Brown University as well as collaborators at other institutions.  First, a series of studies is investigating the potential long term impact of prenatal cocaine exposure on brain development.  This research has included an initial investigation of brain function in 8 – 9 year old children with prenatal exposure to cocaine.  Using fMRI, we have identified preliminary evidence for the effects of prenatal cocaine on frontal brain functioning during a simple response inhibition task.  This research has been conducted in collaboration with Dr. Jerome Sanes in the Department of Neuroscience, as well as Dr. B.J. Casey at Cornell Medical School.  Morphological studies of the brains of these children are being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Barry Kosofsky, also at Cornell.  In addition, in a related effort, and also in collaboration with Dr. Kosofsky, we are working to implement multi-site MRI scanning procedures for use in pediatric populations, interfacing with the Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN).  A second set of MRI studies involves understanding the response of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders to social information using fMRI.  These studies are in collaboration with the Pessoa and Tarr labs at Brown University (see Autism Research).  For more information contact: Stephen Sheinkopf at

Sleep in adolescents: Implications for development

Research suggests that sleeping difficulties predict negative short- and long-term outcomes, whether they occur during infancy or adolescence. The association between sleep problems and negative developmental outcomes, however, has not been widely assessed in adolescents and we do not know how prenatal vulnerabilities, such as drug exposure, might influence the negative effects of sleep problems on normal development. The purpose of this study is to investigate in MLS children 1) whether sleep problems during childhood predict adolescent sleep problems, 2) whether increased sleep problems predict increased problems in other areas of functioning, and 3) whether that relationship is affected by other pre- and postnatal adversity. For more information contact: Kristen Stone at

Methamphetamine Exposure and Child Development in New Zealand and USA

An increasing drug of choice for pregnant women in the US and around the world including New Zealand (NZ) is methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is a potent, addictive drug that can be manufactured from ingredients available in drug and hardware stores. Due to the naturally occurring social conditions in NZ, we can isolate the effects of prenatal methamphetamine exposure from co-occurring conditions in the USA that also impact development including poverty and the removal of children from their biological mother. We anticipate 240 NZ mothers and children with methamphetamine exposure and matched comparisons. We will examine neurobehavior at birth, 1 month, 12 months, 24 months, and 36, replicating our USA IDEAL study. Exposed and non-exposed infants in NZ will be compared to their counterparts in the USA. The study increases our understanding of the role of culture, social policy, child rearing, and nonmaternal care on the outcome of methamphetamine exposed children. For more information contact: Sheri DellaGrotta at