Matthew Hocking Research Program

Led by Matthew C. Hocking, PhD, the mission of the Hocking Research Program is to better understand the neurodevelopmental consequences of having survived childhood cancer or having neurofibromatosis type 1, to identify those who are most at risk for poor outcomes, and to intervene in some way in order to improve quality of life.

The Hocking Research Program focuses on determining the risk and resilience factors associated with the neurodevelopmental outcomes of children and young adults diagnosed with brain tumors, solid tumors and neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). The long-term goal of this work is to enhance functional outcomes and overall quality of life for pediatric cancer survivors and their families.

Two ongoing studies are focused on assessing the social competency of pediatric brain tumor survivors. Dr. Hocking is evaluating the ability of these children to achieve personal goals through social interactions while simultaneously maintaining positive interpersonal relationships with friends and family members. One study represents an innovative collaboration with researchers from the Center for Autism Research (CAR) at CHOP that uses eye-tracking technology and neuroimaging approaches to compare brain tumor survivors to youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and typically developing youth to identify brain-related mechanisms for survivor social problems.

Other current studies include using neuroimaging methods to identify neurobiological factors associated with an ASD diagnosis in youth with NF1, a group with higher rates of ASD diagnoses than the general population, and determining whether germline genetic polymorphisms affect the risk for poor neurocognitive outcomes in pediatric brain tumor survivors.

Prior research integrated elements of family psychology, neuropsychology and developmental psychology to explain and address survivor neurodevelopmental late effects. In a series of studies, we demonstrated that family functioning is an important variable that might mitigate the negative influence of neurocognitive late effects of pediatric brain tumors and represents a potential target in future interventions.

  • Continuous NIH funding since 2012 to study neurodevelopmental outcomes in youth with NF1 and in pediatric brain tumor survivors
  • Highlighting family functioning as important variable for pediatric brain tumor survivor health-related quality of life (doi: 10.1002/pbc.26976)
  • Developed and co-chair Psychosocial Grants Program for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation