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. 


We are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. David Savitz as Associate Director of the Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk and the Center for Children and Families, Brown Alpert Medical School and Women and Infants Hospital. Dr. Savitz is Professor of Epidemiology, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Professor of Pediatrics. Dr. Savitz will provide leadership for research in perinatal epidemiology and share responsibility for overseeing the administration, programs and strategic plan of the Centers. 

Dr. David SavitzDr. David Savitz

Dr. LevineDr. Levine Dr. Levine was mentioned in the story "After Other Options Fail, A Family Tries Medical Marijuana For Son With Autism" in the National Public Radio.


Breastfeeding Changes Gene Activity That May Make Babies Less Reactive To Stress

Please read Dr. Lester and his colleagues' recent publicantion, "Epigenetic Programming by Maternal Behavior in the Human Infant."  They looked at more than 40 full-term, healthy infants and their mothers, one-half of whom breastfed for the first five months and one-half of whom did not. They measured the cortisol stress reactivity in infant saliva using a mother-infant interaction procedure and the DNA methylation (changing the activity of the DNA segment without changing its sequence) of an important regulatory region of the glucocorticoid receptor gene which regulates development, metabolism, and immune responseAccording to Dr. Lester, "Breastfeeding was associated with decreased DNA methylation and decreased cortisol reactivity in the infants. In other words, there was an epigenetic change in the babies who were breastfed, resulting in reduced stress than those who were not breastfed."

Margaret Jordan, Health and Human Biology. Sponsor: Cynthia Miller-Loncar, PhD Pediatrics & Psychiatry & Human Behavior. "Early Infant Regulatory Problems, Maternal Depression and Later Socioemotional Outcomes."

Drs. Lester and CzynskiDrs. Lester and CzynskiDr. Lester and Dr. Czynski talk about the "Establishing Risk in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Study" on WPRI 12. 


Learn more about the new program that focuses on the future of babies born with opioid dependence.

Please read the New York Times Magazine cover story for Mother's Day by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jennifer Egan on "Children of the Opioid Epidemic." 

Study of kids with autism identifies hospitalization risk factors

Children or teens with autism spectrum disorders often come to hospitals when behavioral episodes overwhelm the support that caregivers can provide at home — but resources at hospitals are sometimes limited, too, says clinical psychologist and researcher Giulia Righi. With that reality in mind, Righi led a new study to identify which factors put young people with autism at especially high risk of seeking inpatient psychiatric care. Read about the study of kids with autism identifies hospitalization risk factors. 


$4.9 Million ECHO Grant Award

Drs. Padbury and LesterDrs. Padbury and Lester
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. 

Dr. HawesDr. HawesRead the Redbook's article on Dr. Hawes's Social Emotional Factors Increase Risk of Postpartum Depression in Mothers of Preterm Infants publication.

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

BCC 10th AnniversaryBCC 10th Anniversary

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. 


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

Dr. LesterDr. LesterPlease 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. SheinkopfDr. Sheinkopf

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

Learn more about the number of drug-dependent babies in Rhode Island.

Epigenetics at the Policy Level

Epigenetic Changes in ChildrenEpigenetic Changes in Children

Dr. Barry Lester was interviewed by Daniel Keating of 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. Read more about the The Protecting Our Infants Act. PDF of bill

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

Executive Office of the President of the USA/Dr.LesterExecutive Office of the President of the USA/Dr.Lester

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                         

  Drs.Lester, Conradt and MarsitDrs.Lester, Conradt and MarsitDr. 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. SalisburyDr. SalisburyDr. 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. SalisburyDr. SalisburyDr. 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. TwomeyDr. Twomey

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. ConradtDr. ConradtDr. 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. SalisburyDr. SalisburyDr. 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. SheinkopfDr. Sheinkopf

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

Dr. HawesDr. Hawes

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. SalisburyDr. Salisbury

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. BigsbyDr. BigsbyDr. 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