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Child Development - RESEARCH




One Brain

Our funding focuses on co-occurrences, and the fact that each child has one brain. We are interested in the common and co-occurring neurodevelopmental conditions of Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), ADHD, ASD and Dyslexia and Rolandic Epilepsy, and have a particular interest in factors under parents’ influence such as diet, sleep and exercise.

Co-occurrence is a major issue for these children. Impairments in one domain are often accompanied by impairments in other domains. For example, a child identified as having ADHD is more likely to also have DCD and / or Dyslexia than a child who does not have ADHD. In this case, the main problem may be in the attention domain, but the motor and language domains are also affected, albeit perhaps to a lesser extent.

The medical community often refers to this as comorbidity. We are steadfastly refusing to use this term and refer instead to co-occurrence, which is surely more cheerful for children and their families. We do hope you will join us in using this terminology1.

The level of co-occurrence is perhaps unsurprising. After all, the same brain is responsible for all domains. The language domain, motor domain, and attention domain are all supported by the same brain. Moreover, the brain develops as a whole: each part of the brain grows together, uses the same mechanisms, and is influenced by the same factors. Although our diagnostic systems focus on separating problems according to the main domain of impairment, we now know that excluding other domains is to our peril. Our research strategy reflects this.

This year our research funding will again support projects which account for the fact that these children are often affected in more than one domain. Successful applications will likely focus on two or more of the conditions or domains in our strategy or indeed in the Neurodiverse brain in general.

We prioritise projects which are closest to the point of making a difference to the lives of those affected by these conditions. As always, we are interested in factors which may alleviate these problems. We are particularly interested in those which are under families’ influence, such as diet, sleep, exercise and parenting behaviours.

The research we fund is clinically relevant, with clear benefit to those with these conditions and their family members. We fund both pure and applied research topics, prioritising those which are closest to direct patient benefit. Our pure research projects typically investigate the causal factors, core deficits and co-occurrences of particular disorders. Our applied research projects typically investigate factors relating to interventions for these disorders. We prioritise those which are cost-effective, would be easy to rollout, and directly involve parents and children (such as involving diet, sleep and exercise etc).


For examples of applied research projects the Child Development Fund has previously supported, please click here. To apply with a research project, go to our Research Applications page. 

Suggested readings:
Cuthbert, B. N. (2014). The RDoC framework: facilitating transition from ICD/DSM to dimensional approaches that integrate neuroscience and psychopathology. World Psychiatry13(1), 28–35.
Jeffrey W. Gilger & Bonnie J. Kaplan (2001) Atypical Brain Development: A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Developmental Learning Disabilities, Developmental Neuropsychology, 20:2, 465-481, DOI: 10.1207/S15326942DN2002_2
Murray, Elisabeth, Wise, Steven and Graham, Kim Samantha (2016). The evolution of memory systems: ancestors, anatomy, and adaptations. Oxford University Press.

1 - Indeed, we will prioritise those applications which refer to co-occurrence rather than to comorbidity.