Gathering information and data to facilitate research that will advance knowledge, innovation and care is central to everything we do here at The Center for Discovery. We believe in challenging the status quo. From world-class music and creative arts therapy and a biodynamic agricultural program, to innovation in the classroom curriculum and adapted physical education, it’s all grounded in research – research that leads to significant breakthroughs and life-changing opportunities. And advancement in care for those with complex conditions, like autism, depends on it.
In The Center for Discovery’s (TCFD) nearly 40 years of experience, we’ve built the ideal setting for challenging the status quo through research – a living, dynamic program of discovery where we have daily access to data that informs us how The Center’s residents and students are responding to their environments and treatments. And, that daily access lends itself naturally to highly “translational research”, which means we can immediately apply our knowledge of study results to better their lives and to ultimately reach our goal – fulfillment for not only them, but their families, as well. TCFD follows the highest standards and rigor when collecting data and conducting any research that involves our residents, staff, or families. All research is approved through an Institutional Review Board (IRB), and some studies may have multiple IRB approvals through partner universities and hospitals.
The Center’s Associate Executive Director, Dr. Theresa Hamlin, explains the importance: “We have world-class researchers, physicians, scientists, and clinicians working together, often side-by-side, to solve highly complex problems. We are privileged to follow individuals for a long period of time. The longitudinal data set we have amassed is incredibly important. And it will allow us to bring our results nationwide and help those with complex conditions elsewhere. ”
Here’s a brief look at several ongoing studies at The Center:
Due out in the fall are the results of groundbreaking gut-brain axis research done at The Center in conjunction with Dr. Kara Margolis at Columbia University, and Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital. Preliminary data suggests that TCFD’s residents with complex conditions, like autism, have significantly healthier gut microbiomes and better outcomes than others (including individuals without autism). The difference may be diet. The Center’s residents eat organic, mostly plant-based meals grown and raised on its organic and biodynamic self-sustaining Thanksgiving Farm. These results could alter the way autism is ultimately treated around the world – proving our philosophy that Food is Medicine.
Stress is the focus of one of our most in depth studies. For ten years, TCFD researchers have been examining stress in more than 60 boys and girls with the diagnosis of ASD via non-invasive monitoring devices and cameras in the classroom of “The Lab School.” These preliminary findings suggest there are general subtypes of stress responses in children with complex forms of autism. The findings also suggest that there is a social transfer of stress, in other words, stress is contagious. And so, our TCFD team is now in phase two – looking into the transfer of stress from one person to another, including caregiver transfer. The ongoing body of knowledge will give us a clearer understanding of what triggers stress and will lead us to more precise treatment. A scientific paper will be released this month with first phase findings.
Dr. Orrin Devinsky from New York University Medical Center, Dr. George Todd at Mount Sinai Hospital, Jeff Lombardo, PharmD, and John Coles, PhD, at the University of Buffalo, are conducting a first-of-its-kind observational study in NY State – collecting information about the use of medical marijuana for those who have been prescribed medical marijuana for drug resistant epilepsy. At least 50 individuals will be part of the research that will also gather data about dosage and the most effective ratio of the cannabinoids THC to CBD.
Sleep is also a critical aspect of health and we are currently working closely with Dr. Gari Clifford and his team at Emory University to install technology that will facilitate the study of sleep and its effects on behavior in our residents.
And finally, Dr. John Ratey of Harvard Medical School, one of the world’s foremost authorities on the brain-fitness connection, is collaborating with Dr. Nicole Kinney, Chief of Clinical Services at The Center, and her clinical team, to investigate motor skill functioning and the cerebellum in autism.
For more information on research projects currently underway at The Center, please reach out to the Office of Strategic Outreach and Partnerships at StrategicOutreach@TCFD.org.