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Rovet Lab

Joanne's biosketch

Dr. Joanne Rovet is a senior scientist in the Neurosciences & Mental Heath (NMH) program at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and a professor of Paediatrics and Psychology at the University of Toronto. She is also appointed to the Graduate Faculty at the University of Toronto and holds adjunct appointments at OISE/UT and York University.

Dr. Rovet obtained her PhD from the University of Toronto in 1974 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in paediatric neuropsychology at SickKids. She has stayed at the hospital ever since. Dr. Rovet is a registered psychologist with the Ontario College of Psychologists.

Dr. Rovet was a founding member of the Turner Syndrome Society of Canada and is currently an active member of the American Thyroid Association (ATA) and Women in Thyroidology. She sits on the ATA’s Public Health Committee and the ATA Initiative for Thyroid Health in Pregnancy. In 2006/2007, Dr. Rovet was a member of a review panel selected by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency to review and change the funding model for the Children’s Environmental Health Centers Program. She also participated in a consensus group spearheaded by Health Canada in order to identify in infants critical endpoints for assessing endocrine disruption. In 2005, Dr. Rovet served on a panel at the World Health Organization to change the levels for iodine sufficiency during pregnancy and lactation. At SickKids, she currently serves on the advisory committee for the NMH program and the Staff Review Committee of the Research Institute. She was a past chair of RESTRACOMP.

Achievements and Awards

Dewan Award, Ontario Mental Health Foundation, 2005
Turner Syndrome Society of Canada Award of Recognition, 1992
Health and Welfare Canada, National Health Scholar, 1983-1988
Research Fellowship, Ontario Mental Health Foundation, 1981-1982
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Medical Research Council, 1975-1978
Clinical Care Activities

Dr. Rovet supervises clinical care activities for all participants in her studies. She also evaluates atypical endocrine cases and oversees direction of the Motherisk Follow-up Program Fetal Alcohol Clinic. Dr. Rovet has also served as an expert witness (for both plaintiffs and defendents) in cases in Canada and the U.S. involving delayed diagnosis and treatment of congenital hypothyroidism and other thyroid disorders.

Research Interests

  • The role of thyroid hormone in fetal and neonatal brain development
  • Structural and functional neuroimaging studies of children with fetal/neonatal thyroid hormone insufficiencies
  • Structural neuroimaging studies of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
  • Thyroid hormone and infant visual development
  • Hypothyroxinemia of prematurity and child outcome
  • Organic solvent exposure and infant and child vision and neurodevelopment
  • Hypoglycemia and hippocampal formation in children with type 1 diabetes

Research Activities

The primary focus of Dr. Rovet's research program is the study of infants and children exposed to insufficient levels of thyroid hormone or alcohol during fetal life. Her studies include children with congenital hypothyroidism (CH), offspring of women with hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism during pregnancy, and children born preterm who exhibit low thyroid hormone levels perinatally. All children were previously studied for attention, memory, and various visual processing skills as infants and using standardized clinical neuropsychological test batteries and laboratory-based computer-driven tasks in early childhood. In addition, children with CH have undergone MRI studies to measure structural abnormalities of selective brain regions as well as magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and diffusion tensor imaging. Currently, children with CH, as well as other early thyroid hormone insufficiencies, are undergoing structural and functional MRI studies to identify critical pathways for memory formation and visual processing that are under thyroid hormone control.

Dr. Rovet's research also includes studies of children with fetal alcohol syndrome, in which she works toward defining the sociobehavioural phenotype, developing a screening instrument to diagnose FASD, and conducting structural and functional neuroimaging studies. Major goals of this research are to identify neuroanatomic biomarkers of fetal alcohol exposure and neuroplastic change following self-regulation training techniques. 

Future Research Interests

  • To develop training programs for children with self-regulation deficits

External Funding

  • Canadian Institutes for Health Research
  • March of Dimes, U.S.

Courses Taught

PSY5103 Learning and Plasticity: Neuroplasticity and Development

This course, given in the winter session of 2007, examined child outcome following illness or brain injury at different stages of pre- and post-natal development. The main focus was to investigate the effects of age-related variables on outcome (e.g., age at injury, time since injury, age at assessment, intervening and moderating influences) in the context of a variety of paediatric conditions. Outcome assessment emphasized understanding neural plasticity and vulnerability or constraints on plasticity. The bases for these age-related differences were also considered.

Contact Information

Phone: 416-813-8283
Fax: 416-813-8839
e-mail: joanne.rovet@sickkids.ca