Healthy Kids Needed for a Study on Brain Development!

We are conducting a study on brain development, using MRI to study the structure and function of the brain. There is NO radiation in MRI.

We are looking for healthy families in which the parents and child have not received psychiatric diagnoses. The child should be between the ages of 8-17 years old.

Children will be: 

✓ Paid for their participation 

✓ Given pictures of their brain 

✓ Given a certificate from the University acknowledging their successful time volunteering in research 

✓ Given the gratification of knowing their participation may help other kids who are seriously ill 

If you are interested in participating in this research, please call (210) 450-8362 OR email


Widespread white matter tract aberrations in youth with familial risk for bipolar disorder

Few studies have examined multiple measures of white matter (WM) differences in youth with familial
risk for bipolar disorder (FR-BD). To investigate WM in the FR-BD group, we used three measures of WM
structure and two methods of analysis. We used fractional anisotropy (FA), axial diffusivity (AD), and
radial diffusivity (RD) to analyze diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) findings in 25 youth with familial risk for
bipolar disorder, defined as having both a parent with BD and mood dysregulation, and 16 sex-, age-, and
IQ-matched healthy controls. We conducted a whole brain voxelwise analysis using tract based spatial
statistics (TBSS). Subsequently, we conducted a complementary atlas-based, region-of-interest analysis
using Diffeomap to confirm results seen in TBSS. When TBSS was used, significant widespread betweengroup
differences were found showing increased FA, increased AD, and decreased RD in the FR-BD group
in the bilateral uncinate fasciculus, cingulum, cingulate, superior fronto-occipital fasciculus (SFOF),
superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF), inferior longitudinal fasciculus, and corpus callosum. Atlas-based
analysis confirmed significant between-group differences, with increased FA and decreased RD in the
FR-BD group in the SLF, cingulum, and SFOF. We found significant widespread WM tract aberrations in
youth with familial risk for BD using two complementary methods of DTI analysis.

Characterization and factors associated with sleep quality in adolescents with bipolar I disorder

Sleep disturbance is an early marker for bipolar disorder (BD) onset in youth. We characterized sleep quality in adolescents experiencing mania within the last 6-12 months. We examined the association between mood and sleep in 27 adolescents with BD and 24 matched healthy controls (HC). Subjects were assessed by parent and teen report of sleep, a semi-structured clinical interview, the Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS), and the Childhood Depression Rating Scale (CDRS-R). Average BD youth YMRS (mean 20.3 ± 7.3) and CDRS-R (mean 42.4 ± 14.1) scores indicated they were still ill at time of assessment. Compared to HCs, adolescents with BD have distinct patterns of prolonged sleep onset latency, frequent nighttime awakenings, and increased total time awake. Mood symptoms, specifically excessive guilt, self-injurious behavior, and worsening evening mood, interfered with sleep. Further studies are needed to determine whether early regulation of sleep would improve long-term outcome in BD youth.

Biological evidence for a neurodevelopmental model of pediatric bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder (BD) is a chronic illness with high morbidity and mortality. Pediatric onset BD has a more severe course of illness with higher rates of relapse and psychosocial impairment. Discovering interventions early in the course of BD in youth is paramount to preventing full illness expression and improve functioning in these individuals throughout the lifespan. It is therefore important to understand the mechanisms involved in the development of BD in order to determine which youth are at most risk and provide biological targets for early intervention. To serve this cause, we propose a neurodevelopmental model of BD, based on the existing data that implicate prefrontal-subcortical network dysfunction, caused by pre-existing genetic susceptibility and triggered by pathological reactions to stress and chronic inflammatory processes.

Dr. Roybal featured on KSAT Channel 12 news for her bipolar disorder research

By Jessie Degollado – Reporter
Posted: 9:34 PM, August 22, 2016Updated: 10:44 PM, August 22, 2016

SAN ANTONIO – For its study on bipolar disorder, the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio is recruiting children and adolescents between the ages of 8 and 17 if their parents already have the manic-depressive illness.

Being that it is usually inherited, Dr. Donna Roybal, assistant professor of psychiatry said, “We can follow family members who have bipolar disorder knowing that we can then assess the risk.”
She said if the parent has not been diagnosed, but has mood swings, and their child is anxious, her team “will evaluate the parent and diagnose them as appropriate.”

She said as part of the study, she also will work with healthy young people for comparison.

Roybal said the earlier doctors are able to diagnose the condition, the sooner the patient can treated. She said otherwise, they risk mood swings, irrational behavior, suicide and drug use.
“But what we’re trying to do is, we can recognize it even earlier so they don’t even get there,” Roybal said.

District Judge Laura Parker at the Bexar County Juvenile Justice Center said more than half the cases she sees involve some sort of mental health interventions, but only about between 4 to 7 percent are bipolar.

“They have a lot of mood changes, mood swings,” Parker said. “In court, everyone behaves when they get in front of me.”

Parker said she welcomes Roybal’s study and the findings it might produce.
She said otherwise, “It can affect kids in a way that either ends in suicide or they end up in the legal system.”
But Parker said that if they do, they will get the diagnosis and treatment they need, working closely with UTHSC.

“We really try to address those needs so they don’t become that repeat offender or graduates into the adult system,” Parker said.

Roybal said those who want to be part of the study can contact or email her team at or call 210-567-4875.

make a gift / donation

Our research seeks to find treatments and interventions for children and adolescents with and at-risk for bipolar disorder. 100% of our work is funded by grants and donations from people like you who care about improving the lives of children who suffer from this illness.

If you’d like to make a donation, please click on the “Donate Now” button below.

clinical services


We provide world class treatment for children, adolescents, and their families affected by bipolar disorder. This includes kids already diagnosed with the disorder or kids who may be at risk and have a family history of bipolar disorder. As an academic research institution, we are on the cutting edge of research, treatments, and interventions for children and adolescents with this illness.


Not sure if your child’s mood swings are normal pre-teen or teen behavior? Dr. Roybal’s expertise is in diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder. She can also help you assess the risk your child has in developing mood symptoms such as depression or mania if you have a family history of bipolar disorder.


Do you live far from San Antonio or do you already have a psychiatrist? We are happy to work with your current provider in assisting with diagnostic clarification and treatment recommendations.


Please call 210-450-8362 if you are interested in a clinical evaluation.