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Dr. Elisabeth Dykens  

Professor of Psychology & Human Development; Director and Annette Schaffer Eskind Professor of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center

Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D. is Director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, Co-Director of the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, and Professor of Psychology and Human Development, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics. She received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Kansas.

Dr. Dykens’ research focuses on both the mental health challenges and unique strengths of persons with genetic syndromes. She is examining compulsive behaviors and overeating in Prader-Willi syndrome; heightened anxiety in Williams syndrome; increased withdrawal and depression in Down syndrome; and both stressful and positive outcomes for families of these individuals. At the same time, she is studying the varied abilities associated with these syndromes, including unusual visual-spatial skills in a subset of persons with Prader-Willi syndrome, marked musical interests and talents in many with Williams syndrome, and increased sociability in people with Down syndrome. These studies shed light on relationships between genes, brain and behavior; as well as provide new insights into ameliorating mental health symptoms while also promoting strengths, well-being, and positive outcomes.

Dr. Dykens has authored over 115 publications, including 3 books, and serves on the Research and Evaluation Committee, Special Olympics International, and the Scientific Advisory Board, among others.

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