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Neurobehavioral Research

​​​​​​​Boys Town Center for Neurobehavioral Research in Children

Offering Help and Hope for Troubled Children and Adolescents

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​The Center for Neurobehavioral Research in Children represents a new era in childhood behav​ioral health. Researchers are exploring ways to diagnose and treat severe mental and behavioral disorders. Boys Town is uniquely positioned to do this research in realistic environments, therefore producing results that are more useful in the everyday care of children.

As we bring our findings into practice year after year, we anticipate better outcomes for the 70,000 children in our care. We hope to further increase school attendance, graduation rates, and measures of family resilience and community involvement. Equally important, by disseminating our findings and advocating for better care, we expect that our research will inform best practices and further improvements at other organizations.

Neurobehavioral Research Focus

  • Mood and anxiety disorders – (depression, PTSD, generalized anxiety)
  • Disruptive behavior disorders – (conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD)
  • Substance Abuse
  • Web and computer-based therapeutics

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Advanced functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)​ is a safe, nonin​vasive way to study what’s happening in the brain. The machine uses a harmless magnetic field – not radiation – to detect oxygen levels and blood flow, allowing researchers to compare brain activity between children and to watch the brain react to different kinds of therapy. While the new machine at Boys Town is quite advanced, the use of magnetic fields for scanning is not fundamentally new; the first MRI technology came into clinical use in the early 1980s, and research has revealed no harmful side effects.

Today, the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral disorders is more art than science. In the future, as a result of this research, behavioral health care will be guided by a greater understanding of brain activity and biology.

Specific Research Topics​

  • Evaluating longitudinally the cognitive and metabolic effects of atypical antipsychotics and mood stabilizers.
  • Evaluating the trajectory of illness across development in different diagnostic categories (mood disorders, disruptive behaviors, and autism spectrum disorders) and the impact of intervention at different developmental stages.
  • Developing new therapeutic approaches including the use of virtual reality, music therapy and exercise programs
  • Researching the effects of trauma, along with internal and external factors, that can influence recovery
  • Researching emerging genetic markers (oxytocin, vasopressin and the mu-opioid system) and correlate with increased risk for aggression and disruptive behavior

Our Research Partners: