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Huntington's Disease Research

Division of Psychiatric Neuroimaging

The Baltimore Huntington Disease Center is funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke (NINDS) to conduct multidisciplinary research into Huntington's disease (BHDC and is one of the Huntington Disease Society of America's Centers of Excellence. It is part of the Department of Psychiatry, Division of Neurobiology, and offers a number of research programs, which include presymtomatic testing, neuroimaging studies, clinical trials, outreach studies, and tissue donation programs.


Neuroimaging, Neuropsychiatry and Cognitive Function

Principal Investigator: Graham Redgrave, M.D.
IRB # 98-09-10-02

Funding Source
The National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke (NINDS) and the Johns Hopkins Neuro-Behavioral Research Unit (NBRU).

Background
The study uses structural and functional MRI (fMRI) to investigate the neuroanatomy and cognitive function associated with neuropsychiatric illness. Specifically, we hypothesize that, in Huntington’s Disease (HD), early changes that occur at the structural level and in cognitive function that can be identified using MRI techniques represent the first manifestation of pathologic process prior to the onset of observable psychiatric and neurological symptoms. Application of specific MRI techniques and data analysis applied to a subject population that can be identified prior to the onset of observable symptoms can then be applied to the study of other neuropsychiatric conditions, such as Parkinson’s Disease, Affective illness and Schizophrenia. Cognitive performance on tests of attention, memory and executive function are examined using fMRI with all affected groups and matched controls. Structural brain measurements will be compared between patient groups and matched controls, as well as correlations of MRI findings with neuropsychological test results, symptom rating scales and biological markers (e.g., CAG repeat length of persons tested positive for HD).

Inclusion criteria: All participants must be 20-60 years of age, right-handed, in good general health and be eligible to have an MRI scan. Participants with HD must also have a CAG repeat length >35. Participants with Parkinson’s Disease must also have been previously diagnosed. Those with Affective illnesses or Schizophrenia must have a DSM-IV diagnosis and have been taking the current dose of psychoactive medication(s) for at least 6 weeks.

Exclusion criteria: All participants are excluded if they have dementia, mental retardation, a history of neurologic trauma with loss of consciousness, or alcohol or illegal substance abuse or dependence during the past 12 months. Those with Affective illnesses or schizophrenia and controls are also excluded if they have a current, or history of, central nervous system disorder. Normal control participants are further excluded if they have a DSM-IV diagnosis, are currently taking prescription psychoactive medication, or have a first-degree family member with a psychotic or bi-polar disorder.

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