Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Research

The faculty and staff of the MUSC Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics actively engage in research that will help inform effective clinical practice.  The following is a description of our currently funded, investigator-initiated research programs:

Carolina Autism Transition Study (CATS)

The transition from adolescence to adulthood is a critical period for individuals living with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  Many of the support and intervention services available to children and youth with ASD end between ages 16 and 21, and there are limited services available specifically for adults with ASD, particularly those without intellectual disability.  The goal of the Carolina Autism Transition Study (CATS) is to characterize patterns of service utilization and longitudinal outcomes of individuals with ASD between the ages of 16 and 22 (as of 2014).
Funding Source:  Department of Defense
-- Principal Investigator:  Laura Carpenter, Ph.D.
-- Co-Investigators:  Catherine Bradley, Ph.D., Andrea Boan, Ph.D., MSCR, and Jane Charles, M.D.

CHARM (Charleston Resiliency Monitoring) Study

A longitudinal study to understand risk and resiliency in children and teens.  CHARM is currently recruiting families with 3rd, 6th, and 9th graders.
Learn more about CHARM. 
-- Principal Investigator:  Carla Danielson, Ph.D.
-- Co-Investigator:  Laura Carpenter, Ph.D.

Corticosteroid Therapy in Neonates Undergoing Cardiopulmonary Bypass

This study aims to examine the medical and neurodevelopmental outcomes of corticosteroid therapy in neonates receiving cardiopulmonary bypass.
Funding Source:  National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
-- Principal Investigator:  Eric Graham, M.D.
-- Co-Investigator:  Kasey Hamlin-Smith, Ph.D.

Down Syndrome Biomarkers Study

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) affects approximately 75% of all adults with Down syndrome and previous animal models have suggested the presence of biomarkers that may place individuals at risk for AD.  This study aims to identify early biomarkers associated with (AD) in both children with Down syndrome and their biological mothers.
-- Co- Investigators:  Angela LaRosa, M.D., MSCR and Lotta Granholm, Ph.D.

Emergence and Stability of Developmental Disorders in Down syndrome

Down syndrome is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability. Each year there are approximately 5300 babies born in the United States with Down syndrome. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are currently reported to occur in 1 in 59 children and research suggests that children with DS have an increased risk for ASD disorder. This study aims to improve the methods and measures to specifically address developmental and behavioral disorders, specifically, Autism Spectrum Disorder in children with Down syndrome.
-- Co-Investigators:  Angela LaRosa, M.D., MSCR, Karen van Bakergem, LISW-PC, and Jane Roberts, Ph.D.     

Evaluation of the Cognoa Autism Spectrum Disorder Screening Measure for Use in Clinical Triage

The goal of this study is to determine the sensitivity and specificity of the Cognoa screening measure as a tier-2 screener for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  This project recently enrolled 80 patients (ages 18-60 months) presenting with concerns for ASD.
Funding Source:  Cognoa Inc.
-- Site Principal Investigator:  Laura Carpenter Ph.D.
-- Co-Investigator:  Catherine Bradley, Ph.D.

Piece it Together

This collaboration with the MUSC Wellness Center is a fitness, nutrition, socialization, and stress reduction program for teens and young adults with High Functioning Autism or mild neurodevelopmental disorders.  It includes a weekly Spring and Fall program, and a bi-weekly Summer program at the MUSC Wellness Center, including personal training and group classes, with an opportunity to earn a Wellness certificate. The group utilizes a private group for accountability and encourages Fitbit technology and an opportunity for running or walking the Cooper River Bridge Run. For more information, please contact Carrie Papa at 843-876-1507 or
Funding Sources:  SC Developmental Disabilities Council, MUSC SCTR Community Engagement Grant, the Coastal Community Foundation, and Crews Subaru
-- Principal Investigators:  Eve Spratt, MD, MSCR, Janis Newton (Director of the MUSC Wellness Center), Carrie Papa, and Tatiana Baier, PhD

Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge (SPARK)

SPARK is a large, national autism research initiative with a goal of enabling research that has not been possible before by dramatically increasing the number and diversity of participants.  SPARK participants include individuals of all ages with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, as well as their biological parents and siblings.  Participants are asked to share basic information and provide genetic data using a noninvasive saliva collection kit.  Registration and collection is free and can take place in person or online at  For more information please call 843-876-8504.
Funding source:  Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI)
-- Principal Investigator:  Laura Carpenter, Ph.D.     

Success by Six in Rural Ghana

The primary goal of this initiative is to improve the health and development of vulnerable children with significant malnutrition in the Village of Okurase in Ghana, West Africa.  This initiative will test the acceptability and feasibility of a nutrition and wellness child development program employing regular monitoring with home health nurse visitation, nutrition and disease prevention, education and monitoring of the development and health benefits of daily improved nutrition.  
Funding Source:  MUSC Center for Global Health
-- Investigators:  Eve Spratt, M.D., MSCR, Jennifer Poon, M.D., Cynthia Swenson, Ph.D., Sarah Logan, Ph.D., Project Okurase, and Ghanaian health officials


Our faculty also engage in collaborative research efforts with faculty in other specialty areas, including a number of federally-funded, multi-site investigations:


-- Long-term Outcomes of Children with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) and the impact of Norwood Shunt Type (SVR-III) (PI: Andrew Atz, M.D. and Investigator: Mary Kral, Ph.D.)
-- Long-term Outcomes of Congenital Cardiac Disease (Investigators:  Jennifer Poon, M.D. and Mary Kral, Ph.D.)


-- Developmental and Behavioral Screening in Pediatric Sickle Cell Disease (PI: Alyssa Schlenz, M.D.)
-- Unrelated Donor Reduced Intensity Bone Marrow Transplant for Children with Severe Sickle Cell Disease (PI: Jennifer Jaroscak, M.D. and Investigator:  Mary Kral, Ph.D.)


-- Comorbidities in Pediatric Epilepsy (Co-Investigators: Mary Kral, Ph.D., Michelle Lally, M.D.)