Take 5: Child psychiatrist Dr. James F. Leckman

Take 5 offers a brief introduction to Yale faculty members in a Q&A format. This latest installment features child psychiatrist and patient-centered investigator Dr. James F. Leckman.
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(Photo by Michael Marsland; illustration by Michael Helfenbein)

Take 5 offers a brief introduction to Yale faculty members in a Q&A format. The featured faculty member selects 5 out of 10 questions to answer. Any opinions shared are not necessarily those of YaleNews.

Dr. James F. Leckman, the Neison Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry, Psychiatry, Psychology, and Pediatrics, is noted for his research on Tourette’s syndrome, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and other related childhood onset neuropsychiatric disorders. His peers have regularly selected him as one of the Best Doctors in America, and he is one of the most cited authors in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. He is the co-editor (with Davide Martino) of “Tourette’s Syndrome” (Oxford University Press, 2013). At present, he is principal investigator (along with Dr. Bruce Wexler as well as investigators in Beijing, China) of a “transformative” project grant funded by the NIH Director’s Office to develop a synergistic integration of brain, body and social interventions (innovative computer games, sports activities, and a social level intervention that targets self-regulatory systems) for ADHD. Leckman also leads (with Pia Britto, Catherine Panter-Brick, Rima Salah, Angelica Ponguta, and Kyle Pruett) Yale’s collaborations with UNICEF, United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, Mother Child Education Foundation (AÇEV), Early Years, Sesame Workshop, the Fetzer Institute, and Foundation Child. One of the main objectives of these partnerships is ensure that early childhood interventions of proven value are being implemented in a sustainable fashion across the globe.

See related story: Yale professor deepens ties with the University of São Paulo


What scholarly/research project are you working on now?       

I have a longstanding interest in the interaction of genes and the environment in the pathogenesis of Tourette’s Syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). My research on these disorders is multifaceted from phenomenology and natural history, to neurobiology (neuroimaging, neuroendocrinology, neuroimmunology) to genetics, to risk factor research (perinatal factors are important), to treatment studies. Based on my work on OCD, I have also been drawn to study normal patterns of evolutionarily conserved obsessive-compulsive behavior. A major focus has been on parenting behaviors and the role of the bio-behavioral systems that closely interconnect our stress response system with the neural and hormonal pathways that underlie attachment and bonding. Studies have included brain imagining studies of new parents as well as collaborative projects focused on oxytocin and related compounds.

Most recently, in partnership with colleagues at UNICEF and the Mother Child Education Foundation based in Turkey, I have begun to explore the question whether strengthening families and enhancing child development is a path to peace and violence prevention [See the Yale Child Study Center’s Formative Childhoods and Peacebuilding website].

Related efforts include the Early Childhood Peace Consortium that was launched (September 2013) in New York at the United Nations and the 15th Ernst Strüngmann Forum, “Formative Childhoods: A Path to Peace?” that took place in Frankfurt, Germany, in October 2013. The MIT Press will be publishing a 20-chapter volume this fall titled “Pathways to Peace: The Transformative Power of Children and Families  I am especially grateful for the leadership and determination of my colleagues here at Yale and around the world in making this possible. Here at Yale, Pia Rebello Britto, Rima Salah, Catherine Panter-Brick, Kyle Pruett, Kaveh Khoshnood, Ed Zigler, and Walter Gilliam come to mind.

What world problem would you fix, if you could?  

The lack of peace in our own minds, within our families, on the streets, and within communities around the world. Violence against children and women would be a good place to start. Then there is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and global warming.

What do you do for fun?

My wife and I love to attend the superb and often amazing recitals and musical performances at the Morse Recital Hall and Marquand Chapel. But my favorite activity is spending time with my wife, children, and grandchildren at the Peabody Museum.

What person, living or dead, would you like to spend a day with?       

Siddhārtha Gautama, Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Samuel Ritvo, Albert J. Solnit, or Donald J. Cohen. [The latter were all noted Yale child psychiatrists.]

What are you reading for pleasure?     

“Luminous Emptiness: Understanding the Tibetan Book of the Dead” by Francesca Fremantle.

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Susan Gonzalez: susan.gonzalez@yale.edu,