Improving care. Changing lives.

Child Mental Health Forum: Robert Althoff, M.D., Ph.D.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 10:00am to 11:15am

Poor Self-Regulation in Children: From Genes to Brains to Treatment
Robert Althoff, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics & Psychological Science
Director of Behavioral Genetics
University of Vermont College of Medicine


Clinical neuroscience has struggled to adequately characterize children who have profound problems regulating their affect, behavior, and cognition but who do not meet the criteria for the most severe form of mood dysregulation - pediatric bipolar disorder. These children are best described as having dysregulation (or impaired self-regulation). Twin studies have revealed significant roles of both genetic and shared environment components to childhood dysregulation. This phenotype has a different genetic architecture and different life course than children with ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, or depression. By characterizing these children as having profound problems with attention, mood swings, and aggression, we strive to identify modifiable genetic and environmental factors to reduce depression, personality disorders, and substance use in adolescence and adulthood. This lecture will present data from multiple studies using a multi-method approach including behavioral genetics, psychophysiology, longitudinal studies, and neuroimaging to answering questions about these dysregulated children. It will conclude with a new approach to the treatment of these children and their families taking into account these neuroscientific, genetic, and epigenetic findings.

Target Audience: Physicians (psychiatrists, pediatricians, child neurologists), psychologists, social workers, other mental health clinicians and researchers, and students and trainees.


Upon completion of this activity, participants will be able to:

  1. Evaluate the literature on self-regulation in childhood to be able to distinguish between broad dysregulation and childhood bipolar disorder
  2. Assess the available genomic and neuroimaging data on children with broad self-regulation as it informs treatment

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