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Research Opportunities

Important Links and Documents

Researcher Guidelines


The MDSC is dedicated to ensuring that all members have information about and access to the latest research opportunities.

Through working directly with researchers and scientists, the MDSC Medical and Scientific Advisory Council selects a number of studies each year that will be made available for the MDSC members to participate in if they so choose.

Each research proposal received is carefully reviewed for content, ethics, and feasibility before forwarding the information onto our members. If approved, the MDSC will develop a study dissemination plan in partnership with the researcher. The MDSC is sensitive to the confidential nature of our membership information and at no time does the MDSC sell or share member information with researchers.

If you are seeking participants for a research project that you would like the MDSC Medical and Scientific Advisory Council to consider, you can submit the proposal that includes the full study and IRB approval to research@mdsc.org.

See this document for complete information on the kinds of research projects the MDSC has supported, the kinds of supports the MDSC can provide and detailed cost guidelines.


Current Opportunities for Participation in Research Studies

MRI with Children and Adolescents diagnosed with Fragile X or Down Syndrome

The Child and Adolescent Neurodevelopment Initiative (CANDI) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School is conducting a research study focused on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) with children diagnosed with Fragile X or Down Syndrome.

This study is sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Center for Clinical and Translational Science. The purpose of the study is to determine if there are ways to help children undergo MRI without needing to be sedated, and to learn more about the features of the brains of children and adolescents aged 7-17 with Fragile X or Down syndrome.

Participants in this study must be between 7 and 17 years of age, have a diagnosis of Fragile X syndrome or Down syndrome, and have a parent willing to assist with desensitization activities at home.

For more information, click here or contact ChildResearch@umassmed.edu.


Evaluating the “Family-Centered” Approach of Pediatric Multidisciplinary Down Syndrome Clinics: A Parent’s Perspective

Devon Haynes, a graduate student in the genetic counseling program at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, is conducting a research study to ascertain the level of psychosocial support offered to families of pediatric patients with Down syndrome by their health care providers.  This research study looks at parent’s perspectives on the support given to their family through their child’s pediatric health care.  The study involves taking a survey that is online and is meant to be filled out individually by either parent.

The survey contains a series of questions about your child with Down syndrome (under age 21) and the types of medical providers he/she sees on a regular basis.  The survey also asks about opinions and perspectives on the level of psychosocial/emotional support that is offered by your child’s pediatric health care providers.

All responses from the surveys will be kept anonymous and confidential.  The goal of the study is to collect information which will allow health care providers to provide more "family-centered" and psychosocial care to families affected by Down syndrome and other genetic conditions.

Click here for more information, or contact Devon directly at devon.haynes@uscmed.sc.edu.

To take the survey, go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/psdsparentperspective.


Project Play

Project Play seeks to evaluate children’s play as a developmental process across the age span of 8 months to 5 years.

Karin Lifter, Ph.D. and her research team from the Department of Counseling and Applied Educational Psychology at Northeastern University are currently looking for families who live in the Boston metropolitan area and who have a child who is developing with a delay. Their goal is to develop a user-friendly instrument that teachers and providers can use to evaluate a child’s progress in play, and particularly for children with delays and disabilities. The ultimate goal of their instrument is to be able to evaluate children’s play for the purposes of designing interventions for them.

Click here for a brochure with more information. You can contact the Project Play team by calling (617) 373-3297 or emailing projectplay@neu.edu.


Genetic disorders in children: An assessment of parental coping strategies and positive growth.

Jane Goodwin of the University of Newcastle (Australia) is conducting a research study for parents of children diagnosed with neurogenetic conditions, including Down syndrome. The study, supervised by Dr. Linda Campbell from the School of Psychology and Dr. Tracy Dudding from the School of Medicine and Public Health, is about how your child has impacted the lives of parents and caregivers.

The researchers are interested in how parents/caregivers have coped, and how the resources that are available to them have helped or hindered the experience. The aim of this study is to gain a broader understanding of issues facing parents and caregivers to children with both diagnosed and undiagnosed disorders. The researchers hope that the results of the study may improve health care processes and models associated with these conditions.

The survey is extensive and will take approximately one hour to complete. Please click here for more information regarding the study and the survey or begin taking the survey by clicking here.


Health U - Weight Loss Study for Teens with Intellectual Disability

Health U. is a weight loss study for overweight teens and young adults ages 15-22 who have an intellectual disability. The study is funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) through the Shriver Center at UMass Medical School.  Eligible participants will take part in a program that includes weekly to biweekly group and individual sessions focusing on losing weight through healthy eating and increasing physical activity in ways that are fun and achievable. Parents receive training on supportive behavioral techniques to encourage their son/daughter to meet nutrition and physical activity goals.

Sessions are 90 minutes, highly interactive, and led by nutritionists and lifestyle coaches.

Health U. is a free and voluntary research study funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) through the Shriver Center in Boston and at UMass Medical School. Qualified participants may be eligible for compensation.

For more information, please contact Judith Ellen, Research Coordinator at 774-455-6540 or email healthu@umassmed.edu.  To learn more, Click here for a brochure. 

Children's Mealtime Study Looking for Children Ages 3 - 8

The Children’s Mealtime Study, located at the E.K. Shriver Center/UMass Medical School, is looking for children with Down syndrome, Fragile X, and/or other intellectual disabilities ages 3-8 to participate in a research study on children’s eating patterns, mealtime behaviors, and parent feeding practices.

The study involves one 2-3 hour visit at a UMass Medical School-affiliated site and parents complete a 3-day food record at home.  Parents will receive up to $85 compensation in the form of a gift cards; children will receive a $15 gift card for their participation.

For more information visit http://umassmed.edu/shriver/recruit/Childrens-Mealtime.aspx, or contact Alyssa: Phone: 774-455-6521 or Email: Mealtimes@umassmed.edu.

Prenatal MRI Study of Fetuses with Down Syndrome

The Mother Infant Research Institute at Tufts Medical Center is conducting a fetal brain imaging study to help understand more about brain development in fetuses with Down syndrome in ongoing pregnancies.

This study uses a safe, non-invasive MRI scan to look at the fetal brain. MRI studies make high-resolution pictures of the fetal brain.

To be eligible to participate in the study, you must have received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome or have had a fetal DNA test result that is strongly suspiciaous of Down syndrome.  Click here for a flier or contact Dr. Tomo Tarui at babybrain@tuftsmedicalcenter.org or 617-636-5729 for more information.

Family Conceptualizations of Career Development for Their Children with Moderate to Severe Disabilities in Middle School and High SchoolBU Logo

The main purpose of this study is to understand the ways parents conceptualize career development for youth with moderate to severe disabilities in middle and high school.  Researchers are looking for 30 parents to participate in a face-to-face interview. The interview will last no more than 60 minute and will be audio recorded. Researchers are interested in learning how families are preparing for their child’s transition from high school such as sources of support, career expectations, and career opportunities for their children, and challengesthey and their children face.

The research team is from the School of Education at Boston University, working under the the direction of Dr. V. Scott Solberg, and is supported by the Office of Disability Employment Policy in the United States Department of Labor (ODEP) and National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD-Y).

To learn more, contact Ellie Castine at ecastine@bu.edu or Zi Chen at zichen@bu.eduClick here for a flyer with more information.

Paternal Perspectives: Exploring Fathers’ Roles and Experiences with Dissemination of Sexual Health Information to their Children with Down syndrome

Adolescents with Down syndrome experience puberty at the same time as their typical peers, yet often require more help from their families in understanding their changing bodies and navigating romantic relationships. Lillian Torrey, a graduate genetic counseling student at Boston University, is conducting the study to investigate fathers’ roles in disseminating sexual health information to their children with Down syndrome.

Study objectives are to better understand when and how this dialogue is initiated, the resources fathers utilize to inform these conversations, and the concerns, challenges and experiential advice fathers wish to share with other fathers. Personal phone interviews will be conducted with fathers of children with Down syndrome who are between the ages of 16 and 30 years old. This exploratory pilot study hopes to lay the foundation for larger studies investigating paternal communication strategies in disseminating sexual health information to their children with intellectual disabilities.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Participants must be fathers (biological or adoptive) of at least one child with a diagnosis of Down syndrome
  • Your child with Down syndrome must be at least 16 years of age and no older than 30 years of age.
  • Individuals may be included if they have had at least one discussion about sexual health with their child (i.e. relationships, sex, puberty issues, etc)

If you would like to participate, or learn more about the study, please contact Lillian Torrey at 617-549-9356 or ltorrey@bu.edu.


Project TEAM Study Looking for Teens and Young Adults Ages 14 - 21 with Developmental Disabilities

BU Logo 2Project Team (Teens making Environment and Activity Modifications) is looking for teens and young adults ages 14- 21 with developmental or intellectual disabilities.

Young people and their parents will complete questionnaires and assessments about the physical and social environment, the activities they do, and how they feel about themselves.

Questionnaires will be completed three times over four months. After the first meeting, each participant will receive a $50 gift certificate to try a new activity, like going to the movies or a restaurant.  Participants will also receive gift certificates when they and their parents complete the questionnaires: $25 after the second session and $30 after the third session.

Jessica Kramer is in charge of the study at Boston University and can be contacted at kramerbulab@gmail.com, 617- 353-7522, or 617-353- 2702. 
Click here for a flyer with more information.

Clinical Trial to Evaluate the Safety of a Study Drug and the Way It Works in theElan Research Study Body with the Possibility of Improved Cognitive Capacities in People with Down Syndrome

Dr. Brian Skotko and his research team from the MassGeneral Hospital Down Syndrome Program are starting another study drug trial.  In this clinical trial, an investigational medicine, not yet approved for sale by the FDA, will be studied in people with Down syndrome who meet eligibility criteria.  This study drug is hoped to improve the cognitive capacities in some people with Down syndrome.

Up until now, opportunities for people with Down syndrome to participate in research have been scant, for a variety of reasons.  For the first time, study drug trials are now available to people with Down syndrome.  Enhancing the well-being of all people with Down syndrome remains the greatest aim of all of the research opportunities that we offer through the Mass General Hospital Down Syndrome Program.

There are a limited number of spots for this clinical trial, and eligible patients are screened in the order in which they contact us. 

This study is being funded by Elan, the developer of the drug in the upcoming study. The upcoming clinical trial will evaluate the safety of the study drug and how it works in the body.  The study will take place over 10 weeks and will include 5 clinic visits.

To see if your family member is eligible to take part in the study, please review the questions here: www.massgeneral.org/downsyndromeresearch

If you would like your family member to participate in this study, or if you have further questions, please contact Mary Ellen McDonough, RN, Senior Clinical research Coordinator in the MassGeneral Hospital Down Syndrome program at, 617-643-5571 or mmcdonough13@partners.org.