Deborah A. Pearson

University of Houston, Houston, Texas, United States

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Publications (83)189.73 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Background: Limited empirical investigation exists into longitudinal changes in cognition, behavior or quality of life (QOL) in children with perinatal HIV who are prescribed stimulants. Methods: This study was an analysis of longitudinal data from children age 3-19 years, with perinatal HIV infection, with and without prescriptions for stimulant medications [prescription (PG) and comparison (CG) groups, respectively], matched on age, availability of CD4% and outcome measures of cognition, behavior and QOL. Generalized estimating equation models were used to evaluate effects of stimulant exposure on change in measured outcomes over 3 years of follow-up, adjusting for baseline levels of outcomes and relevant covariates. Results: Children in both the PG (n = 132) and the CG (n = 392) obtained mean verbal and performance (nonverbal) intelligence quotients (VIQ and PIQ, respectively) in the low-average range for age. At baseline, those in PG demonstrated more frequent signs of hyperactivity, impulsivity and conduct and learning problems than those in CG (P ≤ 0.003 in unadjusted analyses). At follow-up, after adjustment for baseline functioning and other relevant covariates, there were no significant changes from baseline in VIQ or PIQ. Stimulant prescription use, however, was associated with worsening symptoms of hyperactivity (P = 0.01), impulsivity (P = 0.04), learning problems (P < 0.001) and worsening of perceived health status (P < 0.001). Conclusions: The results suggest expectations for behavioral improvement may not align well with long-term effects of stimulant prescription use on behavior and QOL in children with HIV. Further research is necessary to determine if there are subsets of children who may benefit from stimulant therapy.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal
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    ABSTRACT: Prenatal and perinatal exposures to air pollutants have been shown to adversely affect birth outcomes in offspring and may contribute to prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For this ecologic study, we evaluated the association between ASD prevalence, at the census tract level, and proximity of tract centroids to the closest industrial facilities releasing arsenic, lead or mercury during the 1990s. We used 2000 to 2008 surveillance data from five sites of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) network and 2000 census data to estimate prevalence. Multi-level negative binomial regression models were used to test associations between ASD prevalence and proximity to industrial facilities in existence from 1991 to 1999 according to the US Environmental Protection Agency Toxics Release Inventory (USEPA-TRI). Data for 2489 census tracts showed that after adjustment for demographic and socio-economic area-based characteristics, ASD prevalence was higher in census tracts located in the closest 10th percentile compared of distance to those in the furthest 50th percentile (adjusted RR=1.27, 95% CI: (1.00, 1.61), P=0.049). The findings observed in this study are suggestive of the association between urban residential proximity to industrial facilities emitting air pollutants and higher ASD prevalence. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2015 · Science of The Total Environment
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    ABSTRACT: Lead, mercury, and arsenic are neurotoxicants with known effects on neurodevelopment. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder apparent by early childhood. Although the etiology of ASD is not well understood, it may be triggered by environmental exposures. Using data on 4,486 children with ASD residing in 2,489 census tracts in five sites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, we investigated if air concentrations of lead, mercury, and arsenic, as estimated by the US Environmental Protection Agency National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment, were associated with tract-level prevalence of ASD. Additive and interactive effects of the aforementioned metals were investigated using multi-level negative binomial models. After adjusting for potential confounding factors, tracts with air concentrations of lead in the highest quartile had significantly higher ASD prevalence than tracts with lead concentrations in the lowest quartile [relative risk (RR) 1.36, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.18, 1.57]. Although unadjusted analysis of air mercury concentrations was inversely associated with ASD prevalence, direction of effects changed after adjustment for race and socioeconomic factors. Evaluation of interactive effects of metal concentrations showed that tracts with high mercury (> 0.0017μg/m3) and low arsenic concentrations (≤ 0.000019μg/m3) had a significantly higher ASD prevalence (adjusted RR 1.20, 95% CI 1.03, 1.40) compared to tracts with arsenic, lead, and mercury concentrations below the 75th percentile. Our results are suggestive of the association between ambient lead concentrations and ASD prevalence in both univariable and multivariable results. Additionally, we demonstrate that exposure to multiple metals may have a synergistic effect in ASD prevalence, although our findings have several limitations.
    No preview · Conference Paper · Jun 2015
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    ABSTRACT: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder manifesting by early childhood. Lead is a toxic metal shown to cause neurodevelopmental disorders in children. Several studies have investigated the possible association between exposure to lead and ASD, but their findings are conflicting. Using data from 100 ASD cases (2-8 years of age) and their age- and sex-matched typically developing controls, we investigated the association between blood lead concentrations (BLC) and ASD in Jamaican children. We administered a questionnaire to assess demographic and socioeconomic information as well as exposure to potential lead sources. We used General Linear Models (GLM) to assess the association of BLC with ASD status as well as with sources of exposure to lead. In univariable GLM, we found a significant difference between geometric mean blood lead concentrations of ASD cases and controls (2.25 mug/dL cases vs. 2.73 mug/dL controls, p < 0.05). However, after controlling for potential confounders, there were no significant differences between adjusted geometric mean blood lead concentrations of ASD cases and controls (2.55 mug/dL vs. 2.72 mug/dL, p = 0.64). Our results do not support an association between BLC and ASD in Jamaican children. We have identified significant confounders when assessing an association between ASD and BLC
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2014 · International journal of environmental research and public health
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    ABSTRACT: Human exposure to cadmium has adverse effects on the nervous system. Utilizing data from 110 age- and sex-matched case-control pairs (220 children) ages 2-8 years in Kingston, Jamaica, we compared the 75th percentile of blood cadmium concentrations in children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In both univariable and multivariable Quantile Regression Models that controlled for potential confounding factors, we did not find any significant differences between ASD cases and typically developing (TD) controls with respect to the 75th percentile of blood cadmium concentrations (P > 0.22). However, we found a significantly higher 75th percentile of blood cadmium concentrations in TD Jamaican children who consumed shellfish (lobsters, crabs) (P < 0.05), fried plantain (P < 0.01), and boiled dumpling (P < 0.01). We also observed that children living in Jamaica have an arithmetic mean blood cadmium concentration of 0.16 mu g/L which is similar to that of the children in developed countries and much lower than that of children in developing countries. Although our results do not support an association between blood cadmium concentrations and ASD, to our knowledge, this study is the first to report levels of blood cadmium in TD children as well as those with ASD in Jamaica.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders
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    ABSTRACT: Background Manganese is an essential element for human health and development. Previous studies have shown neurotoxic effects in children exposed to higher levels of manganese. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs social interaction and communication. Several studies have hypothesized that ASD is caused through environmental exposures during crucial stages in brain development. We investigated the possible association between blood manganese concentrations (BMC) and ASD. We also identified factors associated with BMC in typically developing (TD) Jamaican children. Methods We used data from 109 ASD cases with their 1:1 age- and sex-matched TD controls to compare mean BMC in Jamaican children (2–8 years of age) with and without ASD. We administered a pre-tested questionnaire to assess demographic and socioeconomic information, medical history, and potential exposure to manganese. Finally, we collected 2 mL of whole blood from each child for analysis of manganese levels. Using General Linear Models (GLM), we assessed the association between BMC and ASD status. Furthermore, we used two independent sample t-tests to identify factors associated with BMC in TD children. Results In univariable GLM analysis, we found no significant association between BMC and ASD, (10.9 μg/L for cases vs. 10.5 μg/L for controls; P = 0.29). In a multivariable GLM adjusting for paternal age, parental education, place of child’s birth (Kingston parish), consumption of root vegetables, cabbage, saltwater fish, and cakes/buns, there was still no significant association between BMC and ASD status, (11.5 μg/L for cases vs. 11.9 μg/L for controls; P = 0.48). Our findings also indicated TD children who ate fresh water fish had a higher BMC than children who did not (11.0 μg/L vs. 9.9 μg/L; P = 0.03) as younger TD children (i.e., 2 ≤ age ≤4), (12.0 μg/L vs. 10.2 μg/L; P = 0.01). Conclusions While these results cannot be used to assess early exposure at potentially more susceptible time period, our findings suggest that there is no significant association between manganese exposures and ASD case status in Jamaica. Our findings also indicate that BMC in Jamaican children resemble those of children in the developed world and are much lower than those in the developing countries.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Clinicians, educators, and researchers have many alternative psychometric measures available to them tapping symptoms of ADHD. With the advent of DSM-5, a diagnosis of ADHD is no longer precluded in a child with ASD—and thus the need for assessment of ADHD in this population will likely rise. Although many commercially available instruments have excellent psychometric characteristics and provide information regarding comorbid conditions (e.g., anxiety), there are circumstances when these instruments are either unavailable (e.g., a parent seeking preliminary information) or when the cost of commercial instruments is prohibitive (e.g., in a rural school district with minimal psychological assessment funding). In these circumstances, a no-cost web-based screen for ADHD would be a helpful first step in determining which children with ASD might warrant a comprehensive follow-up evaluation. What is unknown is how strongly related internet-based and commercial measures of ADHD symptoms are in children with ASD. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to compare parent and teacher ratings of ADHD symptoms (e.g., inattention, hyperactivity) on the SNAP-IV [available at www.adhd.net] to parent and teacher ratings of ADHD symptoms on widely used commercial measures of ADHD symptoms. Methods: Participants were 77 children (63 boys; mean age=9.3 yrs; mean IQ=86) who met DSM-IV criteria for autism on the ADI-R and the ADOS. Parent ratings on 12 subscales tapping ADHD symptoms on the Conners Parent Rating Scale-Revised (CPRS-R), Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC) and ADD-H Comprehensive Teacher's Rating Scale (ACTeRS) were compared to parent ratings on 2 subscales on the SNAP-IV tapping ADHD symptoms, using correlational methods. Similar comparisons were performed for corresponding teacher ratings. Results: Significant correlations (all p<.01, range: r=.30 to r=82; average r=.60) were obtained between the parent ratings of ADHD symptoms on the SNAP-IV with parent ratings of ADHD on the CPRS-R, CBCL, ABC, and ACTeRS. A similar pattern was seen for teacher ratings (all p<.01, range: r=.27 to r=.86; average r=.61). Conclusions: These findings indicate that the parent and teacher ADHD ratings on this web-based measure of ADHD are highly correlated with commercial measures of ADHD in school-age children with ASD. Thus, the SNAP-IV, a web-based measure of ADHD symptomatology, would appear to have a helpful role in screening for a comprehensive assessment providing information regarding clinical severity of ADHD symptoms and its commonly comorbid concerns in school-age children with ASD.
    No preview · Conference Paper · May 2014
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    ABSTRACT: Some have suggested that parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may present with less recognizable autistic-like phenotypic characteristics, leading them to highly systemizing occupations. Using secondary analysis of data from two previous studies of children with ASD, we tested associations between parental occupations and ASD diagnosis and the association of parental occupational characteristics on ASD severity. We found that fathers in healthcare (P < 0.01) and finance (P = 0.03) were more likely to have children with ASD. Additionally, joint effects of parental technical occupations were associated with communication (P < 0.01) and social impairment (P = 0.04). These results support that a “broader phenotype” and possible assortative mating in adults with autistic-like characteristics might contribute to intergenerational transmission and having offspring with greater ASD severity.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives: Studies have suggested a link between diet and behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Parental reports of behavioral changes upon exposure to gluten and/or casein are common in clinical practice. An association between diet type, intestinal permeability (IP) ('leaky gut'), and behavior has been long proposed but not substantiated. We explored this possible association in this trial. Methods: This randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study explored the effects of gluten and milk on IP and behavior in children with ASDs over a period of 4 weeks. IP assessed by lactulose:mannitol (L/M) sugar permeability test and behavior assessed by the Aberrant Behavior Checklist and Conners Parent Rating were measured. Gastrointestinal symptoms in both groups were also monitored. Results: Neither the L/M ratio nor behavioral scores were different between groups exposed to gluten/dairy or placebo. The changes observed were noted to be small and not clinically significant. Discussion: Our study although underpowered to show small differences does not support an association between dietary gluten/milk, IP, and behavioral changes in subjects with ASD.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2014 · Nutritional Neuroscience
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    ABSTRACT: An established neural biomarker of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has the potential to provide novel biological and pharmacological targets for treatment. Lower level of inhibition in brain circuits is a leading biomarker candidate. A physiological investigation of the functional levels of inhibition in the cortex of individuals with autism can provide a strong test of the hypothesis. The amplitude of cortical response to the stimulation of adjacent fingers is controlled by the level of cortical inhibition and provides just such a test. Using magnetoencephalography, we recorded the response of the somatosensory cortex to the passive tactile stimulation of the thumb (D1), and index finger (D2), and to the simultaneous stimulation of both fingers combined (D1,D2) of the dominant (right) hand of young subjects with and without autism. For each participant, we measured the response to the stimulation of both fingers combined (D1,D2) relative to the post hoc sum of the responses to the stimulation of each finger alone (D1+D2) in multiple different ways and linearly regressed the ASD and neurotypical (NT) groups' responses. The resulting slopes were then compared: Smaller slope values imply attenuated response to paired finger stimulation, and enhanced levels of inhibition. The short-latency M40 and mid-latency M80 response slopes of the group with autism obtained in different ways were either significantly smaller, or statistically indistinguishable from NT. The result does not support reduced inhibition in the somatosensory cortex of individuals with autism, contrary to the seminal hypothesis of reduced inhibition. Implications are discussed including refinements of current theory. Autism Res 2013, ●●: ●●-●●. © 2013 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2013 · Autism Research
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    ABSTRACT: Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors vary widely in type, frequency, and intensity among children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. They can be stigmatizing and interfere with more constructive activities. Accordingly, restricted interests and repetitive behaviors may be a target of intervention. Several standardized instruments have been developed to assess restricted interests and repetitive behaviors in the autism spectrum disorder population, but the rigor of psychometric assessment is variable. This article evaluated the readiness of available measures for use as outcome measures in clinical trials. The Autism Speaks Foundation assembled a panel of experts to examine available instruments used to measure restricted interests and repetitive behaviors in youth with autism spectrum disorder. The panel held monthly conference calls and two face-to-face meetings over 14 months to develop and apply evaluative criteria for available instruments. Twenty-four instruments were evaluated and five were considered "appropriate with conditions" for use as outcome measures in clinical trials. Ideally, primary outcome measures should be relevant to the clinical target, be reliable and valid, and cover the symptom domain without being burdensome to subjects. The goal of the report was to promote consensus across funding agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and clinical investigators about advantages and disadvantages of existing outcome measures.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2013 · Autism
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    ABSTRACT: Despite the high rate of anxiety in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), measuring anxiety in ASD is fraught with uncertainty. This is due, in part, to incomplete consensus on the manifestations of anxiety in this population. Autism Speaks assembled a panel of experts to conduct a systematic review of available measures for anxiety in youth with ASD. To complete the review, the panel held monthly conference calls and two face-to-face meetings over a fourteen-month period. Thirty eight published studies were reviewed and ten assessment measures were examined: four were deemed appropriate for use in clinical trials, although with conditions; three were judged to be potentially appropriate, while three were considered not useful for clinical trials assessing anxiety. Despite recent advances, additional relevant, reliable and valid outcome measures are needed to evaluate treatments for anxiety in ASD.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the behavioral effects of four doses of psychostimulant medication, combining extended-release methylphenidate (MPH) in the morning with immediate-release MPH in the afternoon. Method: The sample comprised 24 children (19 boys; 5 girls) who met American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (DSM-IV-TR) criteria for an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) on the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), and had significant symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This sample consisted of elementary school-age, community-based children (mean chronological age=8.8 years, SD=1.7; mean intelligence quotient [IQ]=85; SD=16.8). Effects of four dose levels of MPH on parent and teacher behavioral ratings were investigated using a within-subject, crossover, placebo-controlled design. Results: MPH treatment was associated with significant declines in hyperactive and impulsive behavior at both home and school. Parents noted significant declines in inattentive and oppositional behavior, and improvements in social skills. No exacerbation of stereotypies was noted, and side effects were similar to those seen in typically developing children with ADHD. Dose response was primarily linear in the dose range studied. Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that MPH formulations are efficacious and well-tolerated for children with ASD and significant ADHD symptoms.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2013 · Journal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology
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    ABSTRACT: Emerging evidence for differences between individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and neurotypical (NT) individuals in somatic processing and brain response to touch suggests somatosensory cortex as a promising substrate for elucidating differences in functional brain connectivity between individuals with and without autism. Signals from adjacent digits project to neighboring locations or representations in somatosensory cortex. When a digit is stimulated, i.e. touched, its representation in cortex is directly activated; local intracortical connections indirectly activate nonprimary cortical representations corresponding to adjacent digits. The response of the nonprimary cortical representations is thus a proxy for connection strength. Local overconnectivity in autism implies that the nonprimary/primary response ratios of the ASD group will be higher than those of the NT group. D1 and D2 of the dominant hand of the participant were individually stimulated while we recorded neural responses using magnetoencephalography. The cortical representations of D1 and D2 (somatosensory-evoked fields) were computed from the ensemble-averaged data using (a) dipole model fits and (b) singular value decomposition. Individual adjacent/primary response ratios were measured, and group response ratio data were fitted with straight lines. Local overconnectivity in autism implies steeper ASD vs. NT group slopes. Our findings did not support local overconnectivity. Slopes were found to be significantly shallower for the ASD group than the NT group. Our findings support the idea of local underconnectivity in the somatosensory cortex of the brains of individuals with ASD. Autism Res 2013, ●●: ●●-●●. © 2013 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2013 · Autism Research
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    Full-text · Dataset · May 2013

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  • Chapter: Revia

    No preview · Chapter · Jan 2013
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    ABSTRACT: Parent and teacher ratings of core attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, as well as behavioral and emotional problems commonly comorbid with ADHD, were compared in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Participants were 86 children (66 boys; mean: age=9.3 years, intelligence quotient [IQ]=84) who met American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (DSM-IV) criteria for an ASD on the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Parent and teacher behavioral ratings were compared on the Conners' Parent and Teacher Rating Scales (CPRS-R; CTRS-R). The degree to which age, ASD subtype, severity of autistic symptomatology, and medication status mediated this relationship was also examined. Significant positive correlations between parent and teacher ratings suggest that a child's core ADHD symptoms-as well as closely related externalizing symptoms-are perceived similarly by parents and teachers. With the exception of oppositional behavior, there was no significant effect of age, gender, ASD subtype, or autism severity on the relationship between parent and teacher ratings. In general, parents rated children as having more severe symptomatology than did teachers. Patterns of parent and teacher ratings were highly correlated, both for children who were receiving medication, and for children who were not. Parents and teachers perceived core symptoms of ADHD and closely-related externalizing problems in a similar manner, but there is less agreement on ratings of internalizing problems (e.g., anxiety). The clinical implication of these findings is that both parents and teachers provide important behavioral information about children with ASD. However, when a clinician is unable to access teacher ratings (e.g., during school vacations), parent ratings can provide a reasonable estimate of the child's functioning in these domains in school. As such, parent ratings can be reliably used to make initial diagnostic and treatment decisions (e.g., medication treatment) regarding ADHD symptoms in children with ASDs.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2012 · Journal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology
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    ABSTRACT: Arsenic is a toxic metal with harmful effects on human health, particularly on cognitive function. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are lifelong neurodevelopmental and behavioral disorders manifesting in infancy or early childhood. We used data from 130 children between 2 and 8 years (65 pairs of ASD cases with age- and sex-matched control), to compare the mean total blood arsenic concentrations in children with and without ASDs in Kingston, Jamaica. Based on univariable analysis, we observed a significant difference between ASD cases and controls (4.03 μg/L for cases vs. 4.48 μg/L for controls, P<0.01). In the final multivariable General Linear Model (GLM), after controlling for car ownership, maternal age, parental education levels, source of drinking water, consumption of "yam, sweet potato, or dasheen", "carrot or pumpkin", "callaloo, broccoli, or pak choi", cabbage, avocado, and the frequency of seafood consumption per week, we did not find a significant association between blood arsenic concentrations and ASD status (4.36 μg/L for cases vs. 4.65 μg/L for controls, P=0.23). Likewise, in a separate final multivariable GLM, we found that source of drinking water, eating avocado, and eating "callaloo, broccoli, or pak choi" was significantly associated with higher blood arsenic concentrations (all three P<0.05). Based on our findings, we recommend assessment of arsenic levels in water, fruits, and vegetables, as well as increased awareness among the Jamaican population regarding potential risks for various exposures to arsenic.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2012 · Science of The Total Environment

Publication Stats

1k Citations
189.73 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2000-2015
    • University of Houston
      Houston, Texas, United States
  • 1993-2014
    • University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
      • • Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
      • • Medical School
      • • Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research
      Houston, Texas, United States
  • 1991-2014
    • University of Texas Medical School
      • Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
      Houston, Texas, United States
    • Baylor University
      Waco, Texas, United States
  • 2003
    • Rice University
      • Department of Psychology
      Houston, Texas, United States
    • Baylor College of Medicine
      • Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
      Houston, Texas, United States