Meet Our Research Team

Program Director

Jeffrey NeulJeffrey L. Neul, M.D., Ph.D.
Annette Schaffer Eskind Chair; Director, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center; Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neurology, and Professor of Pharmacology and Special Education. Dr. Neul is an internationally recognized expert in Rett syndrome and other genetic neurodevelopmental disorders. He conducts clinical research and clinical trials on Rett syndrome, genetic research to identify other genetic causes of neurodevelopmental disorders, and translational research using disorder models to identify and test novel treatment modalities for these disorders.

Research Coordinator, Rett Syndrome Research Clinic

Nicole ThompsonNicole Thompson
Clinical Trials Specialist, Developmental Medicine, Pediatrics. Ms. Thompson holds a B.S. degree in psychology with an emphasis in child development. From 2005 to 2015, she worked with families participating in Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and Special Education research studies focused on communication and language development in children with Down syndrome and autism. In 2015, she began Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s neurodiagnostics program and is now a registered EEG technician.

Clinical/Translational Research Coordinator

Maddie Rockouski smilingMaddie Rockouski
Clinical/Translational Research Coordinator, Pediatric Neurology.  Ms. Rockouski holds a B.S. degree in psychology with a special interest in neuropsychology.  She worked in a clinical neuropsychology setting from 2021 to 2022, assisting in the administration and scoring of neuropsychological assessments for patients with Epilepsy, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), memory loss, and other neurodevelopmental disorders.  In 2022, she began working in the pediatric neurology department at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, aiding in the coordination and management of clinical trials and clinical research for Rett Syndrome and related disorders.

Research Team Members

Cary FuCary Fu, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neurology. Dr. Fu, a pediatric neurologist, conducts research on epilepsy, which is prevalent in Rett syndrome. Using animal models, the aim of his research is to develop objectively measured clinical criteria capable of predicting epilepsy onset, and, by understanding molecular mechanisms involved, to target future therapies to reduce or prevent epilepsy.


Rocco GogliottiRocco Gogliotti, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology. Dr. Gogliotti investigates Rett syndrome and other pediatric disorders of the nervous system, and how integration of human samples early in study design can improve the translation success of preclinical discovery efforts.


Beth MalowBeth Malow, M.D., M.S.
Burry Chair in Cognitive Childhood Development; Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics; Director, Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Division. Dr. Malow studies the relation of sleep and sleep disorders to a variety of neurological, medical, and psychiatric disorders, including Rett syndrome and other neurodevelopmental disabilities; and she develops practical, evidence-based interventions to improve sleep.


Lisa MonteggiaLisa Monteggia, Ph.D.
Barlow Family Director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute and Professor of Pharmacology. Dr. Monteggia studies the role of Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2), the gene linked to autism spectrum disorder Rett syndrome, and its relation to synaptic plasticity and behavior. Her research encompasses molecular, cellular, behavioral, and electrophysiological approaches using mouse models.


Colleen NiswenderColleen Niswender, Ph.D.
Research Professor of Pharmacology, and Director of Molecular Pharmacology for the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery. As Director of Molecular Pharmacology for the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery (VCNDD), Dr. Niswender is involved in many aspects of the drug development process, with a focus on drug development for neurological and psychiatric disorders, particularly Rett syndrome, schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s disease. Drs. Niswender and Gogliotti have worked jointly to develop personalized medicine approaches for Rett syndrome by employing gene expression studies from autopsy samples from patients. These findings have allowed them to explore the possibility that drug candidates for interest of VCNDD may work most effectively or safely in patients with specific mutations in MeCP2.


Sarika PetersSarika Peters, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Peters is a psychologist who studies Rett syndrome and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Her key role has been to serve as an important link in the translational research pipeline by delineating the behavioral and neurophysiological phenotypes of rare genetic conditions. Her research program focuses on defining the clinical, immune, and stress markers of severity in Rett Syndrome, and a Rett-related disorder, MECP2 duplication syndrome. She also uses innovative technology (auditory event-related potentials, wearable devices), and novel assessment methods to track clinical severity, and the development of higher-level cognitive and language functioning in these disorders.


Althea Robinson SheltonAlthea Robinson Shelton, M.D., M.P.H.
Assistant Professor of Neurology. Dr. Robinson Shelton’s research focuses on sleep fragmentation and deprivation in children with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD), which contribute to a myriad of behavioral, neuropsychological, and cognitive problems. Children with NDD, already vulnerable to these issues, are even more at risk if they have a co-existing sleep disorder.