UCSF Family Brain Program

UCSF Family Brain Program

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You know where your eye color and height came from, but do you wonder where your reading and language abilities came from? How are we shaped by our genes, environment and the complex interplay between them? Our research team at the University of California, San Francisco is tackling this problem for the first time using the latest, non-invasive neuroscience approaches. This program helps scientists disentangle genetic, prenatal, and postnatal environmental influences in brain networks underlying cognitive processes. Ultimately, this research will help us understand how we become the way we are.

This is a fantastic opportunity for you to learn about the cognitive traits of you, your partner, and your children, while helping to study some of the most intriguing mysteries of the human brain.


What are we doing?

We are inviting families with a child born through assistive reproductive technology (ART) or natural conception (ages 5-12) to join a program that offers comprehensive information about their child's cognitive abilities and a brain scan at no cost. Your participation will also help families by advancing scientific understanding of the effects of nature and nurture on cognitive, linguistic, emotional and academic development.


Am I eligible?

  • If your child was born through assisted conception (e.g. in vitro fertilization (IVF), gestational surrogacy), or conceived naturally
  • If your child is between 5-12 years old (we may ask you to wait until your child turns 8 to participate)
  • If you, your partner, and your child speak English as a native language


What will I do?

  • Complete a short survey to determine eligibility
  • Fill out questionnaires at home
  • Spend several hours at the UCSF Mission Bay Campus in San Francisco, CA for neuropsychological testing and brain imaging using safe, non-invasive MRI scans (there is no X-ray/radiation or blood draw involved in our study)


You will receive:

  • Reimbursement for your time and local travel
  • MRI brain pictures of the whole family
  • In depth report of your child's development

For More Information:

You can contact us at family@ucsf.edu with any questions.


The Team

University of California, San Francisco

Fumiko Hoeft MD PhD

Director & Principal Investigator

Dr. Fumiko Hoeft is Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Weill Institute for Neurosciences, and Director of BrainLENS at UCSF. While continuing her work at UCSF, she will take on a new position at UCONN in August as Professor of Psychological Sciences and Director of Brain Imaging Research Center (BIRC). She is a psychiatrist and developmental cognitive neuroscientist, and trained at institutions including, Keio Univ (Tokyo), Harvard, Caltech and Stanford. She is interested in using machine learning algorithms, graph theoretical analysis and multimodal neuroimaging techniques to understand how the brain develops and functions, particularly in healthy children, in those with learning differences (dyslexia) and socio-emotional challenges.

Florence Bouhali, PhD

Postdoctoral Scholar

Florence received her PhD in Cognitive Science at the Brain and Spine Institute in Paris (2017). Her main interest lies in understanding how our brains accommodate reading acquisition so well, while paradoxically writing is such a recent cultural inventions at the scale of evolution that it cannot have influenced our phylogenetic development.

Robert Hendren, DO

Affiliated Faculty

Robert L. Hendren, D.O., is Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science; Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; Co-Director of the UCSF Dyslexia Center; and Director, Neurodevelopmental, Translational Outcomes Research Program (PRONTO). His current areas of research and publication interests are translational interventional outcomes research including clinical pharmacology, nutraceutical and nutritional trials using biomarkers (MRI, measures of inflammation, oxidative stress, immune function and pharmacogenomics) to enhance resilience in neurodevelopmental disorders.

Ella-Marie Pyle

Project Coordinator

Ella received her BA in Psychology from The New School in NYC and her MA in Psychology from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. She is interested in the neural development of psychological disorders during early childhood and its relationship to various cognitive, socioemotional, and environmental factors.


University of Connecticut

Roeland Hancock, PhD

Director & Principal Investigator

Dr. Roeland Hancock is the Director of the NIDL Lab and Associate Director of the Brain Imaging Research Center at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Hancock is interested in the neurobiological factors underlying individual variability in language processing and the application of new mathematical and computational techniques to understanding these processes. His current research interests include the use of magnetic resonance spectroscopy to study neural excitability in auditory and language processing; distinguishing genetic and environmental contributions to language pathways; and developing tablet-based games for cognitive and literacy assessment. He has a Ph.D. in cognitive science from the University of Arizona, B.S. in mathematics, and was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, San Francisco Department of Psychiatry and Weill Institute for Neurosciences.

Chloe Jones

Project Coordinator

Chloe received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of San Francisco with minors in Neuroscience and Child and Youth Studies. She is interested in child psychopathology and the interplay between the biological and environmental conditions that impact cognitive development.