The Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at UNC
The Carolina Institute includes:

Jim Bodfish
  Contact Information
Carolina Institute Developmental Disabilities Campus
101 Renee Lynn Court
Carrboro, NC 27510
University of North Carolina
CB# 7255
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7255

Voice: (919) 966-4896   |   Fax: (919) 843-9955

Jim Bodfish, Ph.D.

Thomas E. Castelloe Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics

Associate Director, Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities
Director, UNC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities
Co-Director, Behavioral Medicine Clinic & Clinical Training Program
I am a psychologist by training, and I have devoted my career exclusively to clinical, training, and research activities in the field of developmental disabilities. My clinical activities have been in home, preschool, school and hospital settings with infants, children and adults with a variety of developmental disabilities. This includes extensive experience in the assessment and treatment of autism and related conditions with a focus on the integration of behavioral and medical approaches for treatment-resistant cases. My education activities have involved didactic and practicum teaching in the areas of Behavioral Assessment & Intervention, Psychopharmacology, Behavioral Medicine, Behavioral Neurology, Topics in Neurodevelopmental Disorders, and Behavioral Neuroscience. My research has focused on the measurement, pathogenesis and treatment of repetitive behaviors, behavioral disorders, and movement disorders and has been published in a variety of journals including The New England Journal of Medicine, Science, the American Journal of Mental Retardation, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Autism, the Journal of Pediatrics, the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, and Autism Research. My state, national, and international service activities include: standing member of the National Institutes of Health Childhood Psychopathology and Developmental Disabilities Study Section; Associate Editor of the American Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities, Co-Chair of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine Developmental Disabilities Task Force, Governor-appointed member of the NC Council on Developmental Disabilities; Senate Appointee of the NC Legislative Study Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders; expert consultant for the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, and faculty member of the International Congress on Movement Disorders.
 Research Interests
My research focuses on repetitive behaviors in neurodevelopmental disorders. In the course of my clinical work, I have been struck by the fact that despite a dizzying array of etiologies (genetic, metabolic, environmental) and complex behavioral phenotypes, a common feature of early insult to the developing brain is the presence of stereotyped and repetitive movement, behavior, and cognition. In at least a subset of cases repetitive behaviors are associated with significant functional impairment. Further, severe repetitive behaviors have the potential to constrain experience-dependent brain and behavioral development. I study this specific clinical phenomenon using a variety of behavioral and cognitive neuroscience methods (e.g. animal models, neuropsychology, dynamical systems analysis, behavioral genetics, neuroimaging, kinematics, psychopharmacology). The short-term goal of this multi-method approach is to identify valid and reliable markers of the processes that lead to the development of repetitive behaviors that can adversely impact brain and behavioral development. The long-term goal of my research is to leverage models of pathogenesis to develop novel intervention approaches for neurodevelopmental disorders. At this stage we have: (a) developed a psychometrically valid and practical clinical measure of the full variety of repetitive behaviors (the RBS-R), (b) delineated potential subtypes of repetitive behavior that may be useful in the search for distinct pathophysiological mechanisms and the development of novel treatments, (c) developed a set of biologically-relevant candidate markers of sensori-motor, affective, and cognitive processes that are associated with clinically significant repetitive behaviors, (d) developed a candidate preclinical (inbred mouse) model of repetitive behaviors, and (e) examined a range of psychopharmacologic interventions for severe repetitive behaviors focusing on dopaminergic, serotonergic, and opiate systems in both preclinical and clinical studies.
View Publications on PubMed »

LAB: Brain Behavior & Intervention Group (BBI)
 Highlighted Publications

St. George Hyslop, P., Tanzi, R., Polinsky, R., Deutsch, C., Bodfish, J., Kinsbourne, M., and Gusella, J. (1987). Absence of DNA duplication of chromosome 21 in familial and sporadic Alzheimer disease. Science, 238, 664 667.

Sandler, A.D., Sutton, K.A., Deweese, J., Girardi, M.A., Sheppard, V., & Bodfish, J.W. (1999). Lack of benefit of a single dose of synthetic human secretin in the treatment of autism and pervasive developmental disorder. The New England Journal of Medicine, 341, 1801-1806.

Bodfish, J.W., Symons, F.J., Parker, D.E., & Lewis, M.H. (2000). Varieties of repetitive behavior in autism: Comparison to mental retardation. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30, 237-243.

Bodfish, J.W., Parker, D.E., Lewis, M.H., Sprague, R.L., & Newell, K.M. (2001). Stereotypy and motor control: Differences in the postural stability dynamics of persons with stereotyped and dyskinetic movement disorders. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 106, 123-134.

Bodfish JW. (2004). Treating the core features of autism: are we there yet? Mental Retardation & Developmental Disabilities Research Review. 10(4):318-26.

Symons FJ, Sperry LA, Dropik PL, Bodfish JW. (2004). The early development of stereotypy and self-injury. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research. 49(Pt 2):144-58.

Newell, K.M., Hong, L.S., & Bodfish, J.W. (2007). The movement dynamic origins of stereotyped behavior in pervasive developmental disorders. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 112(1), 66-75.

Symons FJ, Wendelschafer-Crabb G, Kennedy W, Hardict R, Dahl N, & Bodfish JW (2007). Evidence of altered epidermal nerve fiber morphology in adults with self-injurious behavior and neurodevelopmental disorders. Pain, 134, 232-237.

Moy SS, Nadler JJ, Poe MD, Nonneman RJ, Young NB, Koller BH, Crawley JN, Duncan GE, & Bodfish JW (2008) Development of a mouse test for repetitive restricted behaviors: relevance to autism. Behavioral Brain Research, 188(1), 178-194.

Dichter, Gabriel S., Felder, Jennifer N., Bodfish, J.W., Sikich, Linmarie, Belger, Aysenil (2008). Mapping social target detection with functional magnetic resonance imaging. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. 4(1), 59-69.

Sasson NJ, Turner-Brown LM, Holtzclaw TN, Lam KSL, & Bodfish JW (2008). Children with autism demonstrate circumscribed attention during passive viewing of complex social and nonsocial picture arrays. Autism Research,1, 31-42.

Esbensen, A.J., Mailick Seltzer, M., Lam, K.L., & Bodfish, J.W. (2009). Age-related differences in restricted repetitive behavior substypes in autism spectrum disorders across the lifespan.Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 39:57-66.

Lam, K.L., Bodfish, J.W., Piven, J. (2009). Evidence for three subtypes of repetitive behavior in autism that differ in familiality and association with other symptoms. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 49(11) 1193-2000.

Dichter, G. S., Lam, K.S.L, Turner-Brown, L., Holtzclaw, T., & Bodfish, J. W. (2009). Generativity Abilities Predict Communication Deficits but not Repetitive Behaviors in Autism Spectum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(9), 1298-1304.

Dichter, G., Sikich, Mahorney, S., Felder, J. Lam, K. Turner-Brown, L., Bodfish. J. (2010). fMRI tracks treatment-related reductions in repetitive behaviors. Neurocase, 22, 1-10.

 Clinical Activities:

The Behavioral Medicine Clinic (BMC) is a multidisciplinary evaluation service for children, adolescents, and adults with developmental disabilities including Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) who have behavioral and/or psychiatric challenges.

Through an in-depth assessment process, the BMC interdisciplinary team - Jim Bodfish, PhD, Associate Director of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities and Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, and Rob Christian, MD, FAAP, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics - work together to create a comprehensive intervention plan for patients and families. These plans include a detailed behavioral management plan, recommendations/guidance on implementation of the plan in home, school, or other settings, medical consultation including psychotropic medication recommendations when applicable, as well as recommendations on possible biomedical drivers of the presenting complaint.

An additional component of the BMC includes training of graduate and medical students involved in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program in an interdisciplinary approach to the evaluation and treatment of behavioral challenges in children and adults with developmental disabilities.

An important issue in autism care and research is how to provide sustainable and effective clinical care for the complex real world needs of individuals with ASDs and their families. Individuals with ASDs have clear medical, neurologic, psychiatric, behavioral, psycho-social, and educational needs well beyond those of the typically developing population. The largest burden of illness among this group is in the area of psychiatric and behavioral health needs. Specifically, people with autism experience increased rates of ADHD, anxiety disorders, problematic repetitive behaviors (such as rituals or compulsions), and explosive behaviors. The majority of US families with members who have an ASD report difficulty accessing subspecialty care, most notably mental health care. They also report difficulty with coordinating care and a lack of satisfaction with communication between care providers. There is also little to no research to date on how to best deliver this type of care to individuals and families.

To address these gaps, CIDD is working on an expansion of the BMC program to link with primary care providers around North Carolina. Dr. Christian is leading this effort to develop Community-Academic Partnerships between CIDD, local medical entities, and local behavioral service providers to provide multidisciplinary evaluation, treatment recommendations and care coordination for those with ASDs who also have significant emotional and behavioral challenges. The first proposed partnership, funded by a grant from the NC Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS), will be between, CIDD, Greensboro TEACCH and Child Health, Inc, an established multidisciplinary pediatric clinic with experience serving children and adolescents with Developmental Disabilities. The partnership is unique in that it combines medical and non-medical experts to evaluate, provide treatment, and coordinate care to best serve this important group of families. This initial Greensboro partnership will hopefully serve as a model for future similar clinical/research partnerships around North Carolina which will ultimately be linked to form a network devoted to delivering a needed clinical service, but also to improving the quality of clinical care delivered to this population via Practice Based Research. As the partnerships and network concept develop, the CIDD sees this endeavor as a platform from which to one day conduct research that will contribute to our understanding of best practices for the ongoing clinical care of individuals with ASDs.


1980-1983: Clinical Practicum, Benhaven School for Autism

1983: BS with honors, Psychology, University of New Haven

1983 – 1986: NICHD Pre-doctoral research fellowship in Developmental Disabilities Research, University of Alabama

1986: Ph.D., Psychology, University of Alabama

1986-1987: NICHD Post-doctoral research fellowship in Behavioral Neurology, Kennedy Center for Mental Retardation

 Teaching & Training

Developmental Disabilities Didactics Seminar Series

Developmental Disabilities Grand Rounds

Behavioral Medicine Clinical Practicum

Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Practicum

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