David R. Hessl, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
UC Davis MIND Institute
2825 50th St.
Sacramento, CA 95817
For the past 10 years, Dr. Hessl has focused his research on genetic, brain, environmental and neuroendocrine factors affecting cognition and behavior in children and adults with fragile X syndrome. Recently, with support from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), his work has expanded to focus on premutation carriers of fragile X who as children are at increased risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism, and who as older adults are at risk for a neurodegenerative disease involving tremor, ataxia, and dementia. He has received an NIMH Career Development Award (K23) entitled "Physiology and Genetics of Social Anxiety in Fragile X" to examine the association between anxiety and autism symptoms in children with fragile X syndrome and the physiology underlying social anxiety problems such as gaze avoidance in these individuals. He has developed a psychophysiology laboratory at the MIND Institute currently investigating physiological correlates of emotion and social gaze in children with neurodevelopmental disorders such as fragile X, autism, and Down syndrome. Dr. Hessl earned his Ph.D. in child clinical psychology from the University of Washington where his work focused on emotional and brain development of infants of depressed mothers under the supervision of Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. He went on to a clinical internship in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University and completed a MacArthur postdoctoral fellowship in psychophysiology under the supervision of W. Thomas Boyce, M.D. at the Institute of Human Development at UC Berkeley. His training continued at the Behavioral Neurogenetics Research Center at Stanford where he began his work on gene-brain-behavior studies in fragile X syndrome with Allan Reiss, M.D. Dr. Hessl is a licensed psychologist and his clinical interests involve cognitive, emotional, and behavioral evaluation of children, adolescents and adults with neurodevelopmental disorders, especially those with fragile X syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, learning disabilities, and Tourette's syndrome. He conducts collaborative studies with researchers from several disciplines, including neuroscience, molecular genetics, and neuropathology in an effort to understand links between genetics, brain function and behavior. He has been active teaching graduate students and undergraduates in research settings for the past 15 years, and currently supervises several students, research assistants, and post-doctoral fellows in the laboratory and clinic.
B.A., Psychology, UC Los Angeles, 1989
Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, University of Washington, 1997
Click here to view Dr. Hessl's academic activities from July 2011 through June 2012.