The Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk was established at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital in 2005. The mission of the Center is to stimulate outstanding interdisciplinary research, education and clinical services on the biological and social factors that determine the developmental outcome of at-risk children. 


$4.9 Million ECHO Grant Award

The Center has been awarded $4.9 million grant as part of a national 7 year project, ECHO being conducted by the NIH. Please click on the link for the 
NIH announcement with the details. 

Privacy for preemies: R.I. hospital at forefront of transforming neonatal intensive-care wards 

Please read the news article on the Providence Journal on how our single-family room-neonatal intensive care unit and improved 18-month neurodevelopmental outcomhave sparked the interest in other neonatal intensive-care wards across the country to follow the same model. 

18-Month Follow-Up of Infants Cared for in a Single-Family Room Neonatal Intensive Care Unit 

Please read our recent publication, "18-Month Follow-Up of Infants Cared for in a Single-Family Room Neonatal Intensive Care Unit," where we found that the single greatest contributor to long-term neurobehavioral development in preterm infants is maternal involvement— and that a single-family room NICU allows for the greatest and most immediate opportunities for maternal involvement resulting in improvements in neurodevelopmental outcomes at 18 months. 

10th Anniversary Celebration

From Mark Marcantano, President and COO, Women and Infants Hospital: 

Exactly 10 years ago today, a large group of dignitaries, staff, physicians and other representatives from Women & Infants Hospital and Brown University gathered together at 50 Holden Street to celebrate the official opening of the Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk. At that time, the Center boasted nearly $18 million in federal funding to study a myriad of behavior and development issues that face children, including such issues as infant drug exposure, autism, developmental delays, colic and crying.

The past decade at the Brown Center has seen growth and continued excellence in coordinated research, training, education and clinical services in child and family development, including the introduction of the Center for Children and Families to provide clinical services to complement the research being done at the Brown Center.

Under the direction of Dr. Barry Lester at the Brown Center, the multidisciplinary research team of psychologists, pediatricians, psychiatrists, nurses, occupational therapists, social workers, and substance abuse and public health specialists, come together each and every day to broaden our understanding of the influence of biological and social factors to best support the care of newborns, children and their families.

The Center for Children and Families, under the leadership of Dr. Cindy Loncar, provides exceptional inpatient and outpatient clinical care at Women & Infants. Inpatient services include the Occupational Therapy Consult Service, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Family Psychosocial Health Service, and the NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale (NNNS) Service. Outpatient services encompass the areas of infancy/early childhood assessment and treatment as well as child and family therapy. The Center for Children and Families has one-of-a-kind clinical services for infants with crying, colic, sleep and feeding concerns.

The Center is also well-regarded as a state and regional leader for comprehensive outpatient services for children with autism with RI-CART (Rhode Island Consortium for Autism Research and Treatment) affiliated staff.

Please join me in congratulating Drs. Lester and Loncar and all of the staff at the Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk and the Center for Children and Families on being true vanguards in caring for the families of our community through research and clinical practice. 


 Read Dr. Twomey 's editorial "DCYF's eyes closed to simple, human needs"  in the Providence Journal. 

Please sign up at EpigenomicsNet to watch Dr. Lester's interview on the "Role of epigenetics in neurodevelopment and neurobehavior insights on the in utero environment and DNA methylation."  

Dr. Stephen Sheinkopf has been awarded a $1,528,896 grant from the Simons Foundation entitled "The Rhode Island Consortium for Autism Research and Treatment (RI-CART) - Phase II." Read about it in the Providence Journal. 

Dr. Lester
talks about babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) for WPRI 12. 

Click to read this article.

Epigenetics at the Policy Level

Dr. Barry Lester was interviewed by Daniel Keating of the the Child and Family Blog and featured in their blog. The interviewed discussed how parenthood policies could prevent early stress from causing epigenetic changes in children. To read this interview visit the Child and Family Blog or view this PDF.

Update On White House Briefing at the ONDCP

On November 25, 2015, President Obama signed bipartisan legislation:

"The Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015" 

This law will help identify evidence-based approaches to care for infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and their mothers. In addition, this law requires the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a study and develop recommendations for preventing and treating prenatal opioid use disorders and NAS throughout the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also continue to assist states in improving the availability and quality of data collection related to NAS, and encourage public health measures aimed at decreasing its prevalence. Click to read more about this bill. Text of bill

White House Briefing at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)

On October, 22 2015, Dr. Barry Lester and Dr. Jonathan Davis (Tufts University) presented a White House Briefing for Michael Botticelli, Director of the Office of National Controlled Drug Policy about use and abuse of prescription pain medication (opioids) during pregnancy and the acute opioid withdrawal syndrome (NAS or Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome) suffered by the newborn infant. To read more about this briefing, click on the PDF                         

  Dr. Barry Lester, Dr. Elizabeth Conradt and Dr. Carmen Marsit were Guest Editors of a Special Section of the journal Child Development (volume 87, Issue 1, January/February, 2016) entitled: Epigenetics, Child Behavior and Development: Unraveling the Gene-Environment Interaction.

The Care New England's Psychiatry Research Division at Butler Hospital and its Autism Research Unit at Women and Infants Hospital have joined forces with the state's leading neuroscience research institutions to significantly advance the understanding and treatment of such brain-centered disorders and diseases as autism, epilepsy, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and traumatic brain injury. To read more about this promising collaboration, click on the PDF

Dr. Amy Salisbury published an article on the American Journal of Psychiatry (Am J Psychiatry 173:2, February 2016) entitled "The Roles of Maternal Depression, Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Treatment, and Concomitant Benzodiazepine Use on Infant Neurobehavioral Functioning Over the First Postnatal Month." The article was on the cover of the Journal and was accompanied by an editorial. 

Dr. Amy Salisbury was interviewed by Psychiatry Weekly on her study, "Newborn Infant Behaviors Following In Utero Exposure to SSRIs and Maternal Depression." To read this interview, click on the PDF

Dr. Jean Twomey was elected vice president of the Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health in October, 2015. She has also served on the Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health Board of Directors since February 2009. 

Dr. Elisabeth Conradt has been awarded the Society for Research in Child Development's 2015 Victoria S. Levin Award for Early Career Success in Young Children's Mental Health Research for her research on targeting epigenetic processes in prenatal programming research to support healthy newborns.

Dr. Amy Salisbury’s recent study, “The roles of maternal depression, serotonin reuptake inhibitor treatment, and concomitant benzodiazepine use on infant neurobehavioral functioning over the first postnatal month," has been cited in the Care New England’s newsletter. To read this article, click on the PDF


Dr. Stephen Sheinkopf has been awarded a grant from Simons Foundation on "Biomarkers of Emotion Regulation, Social Response & Social Attention in ASD."  

Dr. Katheleen Hawes' study, "Neuroendocrine Correlates of Empathy and Stress Reactivity in Registered Nurses," has been cited in the University of Rhode Island's newsletter, Momentum: Research & Innovation (page 26). To read this article, click on the PDF 

Dr. Amy Salisbury has been appointed as a member of the Child Psychopathology and Developmental Disabilities (CPDD) Study Section at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 


Rosemarie Bigsby Honored for Contributions to Neonatal Care 


Dr. Rosemarie Bigsby, ScD, OTR/L, FAOTA, has been elected as a recipient of the National Association of Neonatal Therapists (NANT) for the inaugural Pioneer Award for Neonatal Therapy. Bigsby is a clinical professor of pediatrics, psychiatry and human behavior at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and coordinator of neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) services at the Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk/Center for Children and Families of Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital. Bigsby was honored with the award at the 5th Annual NANT Conference this month in Phoenix, AZ. Read more.