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The Center for Research in Autism, Intellectual and Other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

Dr. Nigel Paneth provides an overview of the Center for Research in Autism, Intellectual and Other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (C-RAIND) and explains the research and outreach mission of the center.

Full transcript below.

Senior Vice President, Stephen Hsu, introduces Dr. Nigel Paneth to the MSU Board of Trustees while both are standing at a podium in the MSU Board Room.

Stephen Hsu:
It’s my pleasure to introduce Nigel Paneth, MD, MPH. He is a pediatrician and epidemiologist. He joined Michigan State in 1989 and founded what is now the department of epidemiology and biostatistics in the college of human medicine. A Harvard educated physician, he completed his postgraduate training in pediatrics at the Bronx Municipal Hospital, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and later attended Columbia to earn his master’s degree in public health.

Hsu:
Over his career, Dr. Paneth has held uninterrupted national institutes of health funding and has been a leader of three of the largest NIH supported longitudinal studies investigating the determinants of intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities in premature infants. He is currently the lead principle investigator of the Michigan Center of the NIH Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes or EICHO study.

Hsu:
He has authored or edited four books and published almost 300 peer reviewed papers. He currently serves on a number of state, national, and international boards or committees, including serving as co-chair of the Michigan PFAS and health research consortium. By researching the origins of brain damage and developmental disabilities, focusing especially on pregnancy and the period surrounding birth. Nigel works to develop approaches to prevent these disorders. In 2014, Nigel joined Michael Leahy as co-director of MSU Center for Research in Autism, Intellectual and Other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. Or as our tradition here, we have to make an acronym out of everything, C-RAIND, which he will tell us more about today. Please welcome university distinguished professor Dr, Nigel Paneth.

Dr. Nigel Paneth:
Well, thank you Steve for that very generous introduction. I was not prepared for that. And President Stanley and Provost Sullivan, honorable trustees. I’m really happy that you invited us to tell you a little bit about our program in the Center for Research in Autism , Intellectual and Other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities, which began on campus in 2013 under the leadership of Mike Leahy, who is a bit hoarse today. So I’m the designated hitter for telling you all about C-RAIND. And then I joined in 2014 to give another perspective, a more prevention oriented perspective to our program. So before I tell you about what we do in C-RAIND, I’d like to set out the landscape of neuro developmental disabilities. The things we are dealing with and I’ll start with the totals column.

Dr. Nigel P.:
One in five to one in six children and perhaps also adults suffer from a developmental disability. It’s not a rare phenomenon. The more severe and uncommon ones include cerebral palsy which occurs in one in 300 children. Epilepsy, you may be surprised to hear has a cumulative prevalence of 1% in the population by age 20. Severe intellectual disability, one in 300 children. Also, mild intellectual disability, by which we mean children with the IQ score between 50 and 70 are found in about 1% to 1.5% of the child population now. And autism spectrum disorder is now diagnosed between 1 and 1.5% of US children. Then we turned to the even more common disabilities, learning disabilities are found in about one in 10 schoolchildren and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in at least 5%.

Dr. Nigel P.:
So the total allowing for overlap among disabilities is between one in five and one in six citizens affected. So this is not a small problem and I’m sure all of you have encountered in your families and among your associates, people with these difficulties and families with these difficulties.

Dr. Nigel P.:
Now what do we do? We work on prevention, especially looking at environmental influences, phenomena, infections, other things that contribute to developmental disabilities. We work on the diagnosis and assessment of developmental disabilities with a particular focus on making early diagnosis so that interventions can be applied more effectively. We are very involved in lifespan transitions. We don’t think of these developmental disabilities as solely affecting small children. We recognize four transitions, conception to toddler-hood, toddler-hood to the school. That’s a very big transition for so many parents. From school to the workplace, and then the problem which is accelerated in many types of developmental disabilities of aging.

Dr. Nigel P.:
And when I speak about transition to the workforce, I should note that the rehabilitation counseling program that Mike Leahy has directed now for many years has been rated the number one program in that field in the United States over the past 20 years. Tremendous accomplishments. Then we turn to interventions. We want to make life better for people with developmental disabilities and we have many programs that I’ll tell you about that involve interventions, and then implementation. We have a successful intervention but we’re academics. We sit here in the university just because we’ve published our trial, it doesn’t end there. We’ve got to make sure it gets used. It gets implemented in communities that need it.

Dr. Nigel P.:
Our vision is to make MSU a global leader in research and training and in service in neuro-developmental disabilities and we have a value statement that support our vision and shape our culture, respecting human dignity. That’s particularly important in people with developmental disabilities, engaging with the community and we have a community advisory group that we work with, including diverse populations, making sure that we have a solid scholarly environment to study the developmental disabilities and always using the best available evidence before we move into practice.

Dr. Nigel P.:
Now we have… We’re a virtual center, we have no specific location. We’re all around campus. We have 93 faculty on our website, from 12 colleges who actively contribute to this effort from all across. And then in addition, extension outreach and engagement. Among our achievements in the last few years in research, we have a program that seed funds grants to assist investigators to get larger external funding. And just only two examples of this are the EICHO program, that was referenced by Steve, a $17 million NIH program that focuses on the environmental causes of childhood disorders and in our case especially focusing on neuro developmental disorders. Connie Sung in the school of education has a department of defense grant on autism working on school to work issues. That’s over a million dollars, but those are only two examples of the grants we’ve been able to acquire by Denta bringing together investigators from so many different disciplines.

Dr. Nigel P.:
We have several training program, the Heggerty Fellows Training Program. It’s a postdoctoral program in which the postdoctoral fellows spend one year here at MSU and one year in Ireland with our collaborators in Irish universities. And more recently we were successful in obtaining an assisted fellowship that’s funded by the European Union. Those grants, about 2% of them of the applications get funded. This is to provide training in technology for disabilities, new technologies that might assist people in communication, other aspects of disability. And MSU has established with support of our program, a master’s degree in applied behavioral analysis, which is the preferred technique for helping children and adults with autism. We now have substantially contributed to the workforce of people who are qualified ABA therapists and trainers in the state of Michigan.

Dr. Nigel P.:
We have Spartan project search. It supports the employment of young adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities and I’m happy to say that our employment rate for people who have gone through this program is much higher than the employment rate for disabled children in general. In Michigan, we are celebrating the spectrum festival with the college of music. I’m happy that Deborah Moriarty is here. She plays a huge role in this. It showcases the musical talent of pre college students on the spectrum. I can’t tell you how moving it is to see this program in action. I invite all of you to come and visit our summer program when it takes place. We are collaborating with Hope Network in developing new assessment programs for autism spectrum disorder and we will be opening new space jointly with them on Hagadorn Road right off campus on April the 27th between 3:00 and 5:00 PM. You’re all invited to that as well.

Dr. Nigel P.:
A new initiative. We just on January 15th submitted jointly with Wayne State University an application to get an NIH supported intellectual and developmental disabilities research center in Michigan. This is one of the oldest, it perhaps is the very oldest research center program at NIH. It was funded by the Kennedy family in the early 1960s, who always had a special interest in developmental disabilities. There are 14 centers nationally. Michigan has never had one. This would be the first one in Michigan. Awards will be announced in May. We keep our fingers crossed. If we got this, we’d get five years of support to the two universities totaling $6.5 million dollars. Two thirds of the budget is ours. Our lead study in this center is a study of whether computer games, which actually are being pioneered as tools for intellectual development in childhood in Africa, can improve cognitive outcomes in lead exposed children in Flint, Michigan.

Dr. Nigel P.:
And the study is led by Mike Breaven of the college of osteopathic medicine. And someone, I’m sure you’ll know about wonderful Monahan Teesha, who’s my colleague in the department, pediatrics and human development located in Flint in our college of human medicine. We will also provide resources for not just studying but for implementing evidence based interventions for disabilities in the community and we’ll provide two special resources for investigators if we’re funded. One is a [inaudible 00:10:37] that supports the assessment of environmental contaminants and their role in intellectual and developmental disabilities. And the other is a subset of that core deals with the microbiome, an increasingly attended to factor in developmental disabilities. And also we will provide support to all investigators in this topic in every aspect of assembling studies of IDD, from recruiting participants to doing assessments to completing the statistical analysis. So our ultimate goal, as I said before, make MSU a global leader and a major resource for cutting edge research and programs and treatments for assessing the problems of children with any of the intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, other forms of intellectual disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, and the other neurodevelopmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

Dr. Nigel P.:
Thank you very much for listening and I hope I can answer questions or some of my colleagues can answer questions if you have them.

President Stanley:
So I’ll just make a comment. Thank you first of all for that presentation. And the work is extraordinary and I think this is… We had founder’s day on the 12th obviously, 165th anniversary of Michigan State University. And I think the founders considered what their concept was and particularly as we think about Michigan State University in the context of the land grant university, when takes the knowledge we generate here and applies it out. I think the kind of multidisciplinary approach you’re taking, which takes full advantage of all the different departments we have at the university, your outreach into the community and the high quality of science you’re putting forward as well epitomizes I think what we would like to see from MSU. So thank you for that presentation which I’ve found inspiring and I look forward and wish you luck on the grant and look forward to continue to have this conversation about the impact can make.

Dr. Nigel P.:
May I make a little inject? That’s why I’m not at Harvard, but I’m here at MSU. This is where we do that kind of work.

President Stanley:
Yeah, I love Harvard too. Other comments or questions?

Trustee Byrum:
I just want to say thank you for the presentation. I ran into Ian Gray at Christmas time buying Spartan gear for grandchildren, and we got to talk about the autism program and how great it would be to have you come forward and present at one of our board meetings. So thank you very much. I’m very grateful that that did occur and you’re doing great work in it. And for parents that are dealing with children with disabilities, you are making a difference in their lives. So I couldn’t agree more with President Stanley’s comments, but thank you for your presentation. It’s very inspiring.

Dr. Nigel P.:
Thank you.

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