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The developing brain is a particularly complex organ, an interconnected network of cells that controls everything we experience, do, or say. If this intricate system goes awry — from disease, infection, injury, or genetics — the results can be devastating. When it happens in childhood, the entire future of a child can be put at risk.

For children facing disorders that affect their brain development, function, or behavior, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford offers an advanced level of care unavailable at most other hospitals. In our Brain and Behavior Center, multidisciplinary teams blend deep expertise and groundbreaking research with a personalized, family-centered approach.

“Whether we are caring for a child with autism, epilepsy, cancer, or an eating disorder, we put all our resources together to offer a lifetime of better outcomes,” says Paul Fisher, MD, director of the Brain and Behavior Center and chief of the division of child neurology.

The impact of childhood brain and nervous system disorders, as well as the side effects of treatment, can range from emotional and learning problems to physical impairments — issues that can carry through childhood and adolescence and into adult life.

Therefore, in addition to lifesaving medical treatment, the center offers nurturing support that continues long after a child leaves the hospital, in order to ease their recovery and a return to a healthier, happy childhood. With a full complement of resources and support services including physical therapists, mental health experts, genetic counselors, and child life specialists, our hospital cares for all aspects of a child’s needs.

“It’s an approach designed to improve both survival and quality of life,” says Fisher.

Streamlining Care

The Brain and Behavior Center also takes a “big picture” approach to research — with physician-scientists working across different disciplines to better understand the nervous system and how the brain operates, changes, and breaks down. Thanks to close alignment with the Stanford University School of Medicine, interactions between researchers and clinicians are streamlined — laying the foundation for innovative therapies.

For example, the center’s growing epilepsy program is exploring new ideas about how to reduce the side effects of medications and improve treatment options. Ongoing studies may lead to new devices that predict the onset of seizures and prevent them.

Research is also pointing to the development of new drugs and specialized therapies for children with learning and behavioral disorders, as well as better tools for earlier diagnosis.

“With advances in research and technology, we now have more accurate diagnostic tools and more options for interventions,” says Fisher. “By working as a team, we are able to reach the right diagnosis and treatment quickly, and bring peace of mind to the families in our care.”

This article appeared in the Lucile Packard Children’s News publication in Spring 2014.