Author: Erin Graham

Boosting brain power

As a recent 60 Minutes piece on Boosting Brain Power reveals, modern teenagers often feel pressure to do it all, and better than anyone else: make straight A’s, ace the SATs, excel at sports or music or art and still have time for fun and friends. Which is why healthy teens across the country are turning to stimulants like Adderal, Ritalin and other medications traditionally prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

In this article, Children’s Hospital Boston experts weigh in on the disturbing trend.

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Mass. restaurants just got safer for people with food allergies

stockphotopro_45939PDJ_family_enjoying_lA Massachusetts bill signed into law will require restaurants to help prevent adverse reactions among diners with food allergies. The new Mass. law, which goes into effect in July, is designed to increase awareness of food allergies in restaurants and  encourage effective communication between those with allergies and the establishment. If successful, it has the potential to make even more of an impact by becoming federal law.

Michael Pistiner, MD, a clinical instructor at Children’s Hospital Boston who also helps families coping with food allergies, was instrumental in getting this law passed. While many dedicated groups and people tried to turn this kind of bill into law for years, they didn’t have any physician support. So Pistiner happily joined the effort and lobbied with the full support of Children’s Division of Immunology for passage of the bill.

Here’s what Pistiner has to say about the law and the happy turn of events.

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Children's on Good Morning America: autism and the science of reading a face

ABC’s Good Morning America features autism and facial recognition research being done by Charles Nelson, PhD, and colleagues in the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Children’s.

Click image to view the video
Click image to view the video

Below, see one of the experiments in in real-time as a baby reacts to fearful, happy and neutral facial expressions.

Click image to view the video
Click image to view the video

Click here to see more video of facial recognition studies in the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience.

In other autism news, a new intensive therapy program for autistic children  is reaping high rewards. The Early Start Denver Model requires in-home therapy four hours a day for five days a week and can be used for children as young as 18-months old. It’s costly and requires a great amount of time and effort by parents and therapists, but the study reveals that toddlers with autism who participate in this intensive therapy program show greater improvements in language skills and scored higher in measures of social skills. Here, you can read a Children’s article about a sibling study that’s finding clues about this complex condition.

For more information on the lab, or if you’d like to enroll their children in a study, visit

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Are home-based drug testing kits useful?

Children’s Director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program, Sharon Levy, MD, MPH, appears on the MSNBC show “Dr. Nancy” to discuss how home-based drug tests for teens may not be effective.

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