Bringing CNS Members Together to Make Children’s Lives Better


Harvey Singer, MD

Profile written by Robert S. Rust, MD, MA

Harvey Singer, MD

Harvey Singer attended Oberlin College, majoring in Zoology. He graduated in 1962, followed by medical school at Western Reserve University. He decided to become a pediatrician, spending his internship in pediatrics at the University of Illinois’ Research and Educational Hospital. Residency in pediatrics followed at Cleveland Metropolitan where he spent his last year as a Pediatric Teaching Fellow.

Prior to training in neurology, Dr. Singer completed two years of military service as a major in the army medical service at Fort Knox. to train and specialize in child neurology was the result of the influence of two distinguished educators and child neurologists, Robert Eiben and Irwin Schaffer. Irwin Schafer played an important role in arousing Dr. Singer’s interest and ability as an epileptologist. Dr. Singer’s decision to become both a basic and clinical neuroscientist was the consequence of the influence and example provided to him at various stages of training by several remarkable individuals, basic scientists Schaffer (metabolic diseases), Joseph Coyle PhD (neurometabolic diseases and neurotransmitters), Donald Price MD (neuropathology), Avi Nath MD (neuroimmunology), and Linda Cork PhD.

From 1972-1975, Dr. Singer completed a Pediatric Neurology Fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He had chosen well, concerning the location in which he would receive his training in child neurology and neuroscience. He was provided with sources not only of information, but the opportunity to enhance his clinical and scientific perspective, his neurological frame of mind, and his clinical and scientific judgment. Such things cannot be programmed into a training experience. What Hopkins provided was a remarkable spectrum of examples of such elements. Particularly strong influences on his development during training and thereafter included John Freeman (epilepsy and spina bifida); Hugo Moser, who added a significant amount of information and enthusiasm to Dr. Singer’s existing interest in neurometabolic diseases; David Valle, who did the same thing for genetics; Guy McKhann adding expert insight into neurodegenerative conditions, as did Ernst Niedermeyer and Alan Krumholz in electrophysiology. Mark Mahone was to become an important mentor for neuropsychology and Martha Denkla for behavioral neurology. As the senior child neurology resident, Ian Butler introduced Dr. Singer to clinical aspects and the importance of research concerning what would become Dr. Singer’s most important clinical and scientific concentration, Gilles de la Tourette syndrome. Mahlon DeLong introduced Dr. Singer to the basic science of movement disorders. Two contemporary Hopkins trainees in neurology proved influential in a variety of ways: Bernie D’Souza and Gihan Tennekoon. 

We are living in an era wherein the mysteries of movement disorders and their treatment are benefitting from scientific enlightenment, an era to which a number of gifted individuals have contributed, few more so than Professor Singer. This “fellowship” of childhood movement disorder specialists includes Mark Hallet, Ann Graybiel, Joseph Jankovic, Stan Fahn, Roger Kurlan, and Jon Mink. The combination of their efforts has resulted in clinical, pathological, physiological, neuroradiological, and neuro-ophthalmological, discoveries with bench science, and other advances in diagnosing and caring for these diseases. Extraordinarily, Professor Singer has contributed 198 original papers. The prompt and enthusiastic intercommunication that these experts share, as is the case with epilepsy and other neurological diseases, has fueled rapid advances in diagnosis and effective treatment of movement disorders. As to basic scientific investigations, contributions to the understanding of these disorders has been advanced in Dr. Singer’s group by neuropathologist, Donald Price, neurotransmitter expert, Joseph Coyle, neuroimmunologist, Avi Nath, and Professor Singer himself. Dr. Singer’s understanding of various other related disease processes has been enhanced by behavioral neurologists/learning disorder specialists Leon Rosenberg, Andrew Zimmerman, and John Walkup.

It has been greatly to the benefit of the medical students and house staff of Johns Hopkins – where Professor Singer was spent his entire academic career – that he has devoted his exceptional skills as an educator teaching clinical neurology, neuropathology, neurophysiology, neuroradiology, neuro-ophthalmology, basic neuroscience, and engaging a number of individuals in clinical and basic science research. From 1979 to the present Professor Singer has held a Consulting Staff appointment at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. For 18 years he held a similar Consulting Staff appointment at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital. He advanced to Professorship at Hopkins in 1988. Professor Singer’s initial competitive research support was a five-year NIH TIDA grant, awarded to him in 1980. In addition to grants earned in support of the Johns Hopkins training program from 1980 to the present, he and his colleagues have been awarded grants for the study of ADHD (4), apraxias, autism (2), age-related disorders of memory or autism (2), Down syndrome synaptic neurochemistry, gene mapping (3), head trauma, heritable metabolic conditions (2), hydrocephalus, learning disabilities, memory and movement disturbances, neurogenetics and gene mapping, neurotoxicity, neurotransmitters and neuromodulators (2), neuroanatomic and neurophysiologic developmental abnormalities (3), neurotoxity, PANDAS (2), stereotypies (3), tic disorders (4), Gilles de la Tourette syndrome (24), Program Project chromosomal mapping of selected neurological disorders, sleep disturbances, stereotypies (3), tic disorders (4), and toxic effects of psychotropic drugs.

In addition to movement disorders and the other topics noted above, Professor Singer has devoted attention to studies of apraxic conditions, head and other neural trauma, application and innovation of imaging studies, EEG, sleep physiology, neuroembryonic processes, neurological storage diseases. sleep disorders, effects of psychotropic drugs on pregnancy and lactation, hydrocephalus, numerous observations on brain neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, the development of experimental models for various neurological diseases, spinal cord vulnerabilities and injuries, and Hurler syndrome. He and his group have published a broad range of neuropharmacological papers. In 1991 Dr. Singer became Director of the Division of Pediatric Neurology at Hopkins, having previously served as Acting Director. He was to serve in this position for the ensuing 20 years. In 1997 he was awarded the Haller Professorship in Pediatric Neurology, an honor he was to hold for 17 years.

To date, Professor Singer has written and published 232 original full-length papers based upon his research. The subjects have included attention deficit disorder (10), autism (6), autoimmunity (4), dementia (2), developmental neuroscience (12), Down syndrome (2), epilepsy (9), genetic disturbances (2), Gilles de la Tourette syndrome and other tic disorders (128), GM1 gangliosidosis (2), headache (4), head trauma (2) hereditable metabolic diseases (18), Huntington disease (2), hypertonia (2), hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (2), kinesigenic dyskinesia (2), learning disabilities (2), malignancy (5), movement disorders (5), motor stereotypies (5), neurodegenerative diseases (2) neurodevelopmental processes (4) neuroembryology (2), neuroimaging (6), neuroophthalmology (4), neurophysiology (7) neuropsychiatric disturbances (2), neurotoxicology (2,) neurotransmitter diseases (2), obsessive-compulsivity (6), oculomotor apraxia (2), PANDAS (12), Rett syndrome (2), spinal diseases (3), stereotypies (14), Sydenham chorea (4), tumor/neoplasms (11), and visual system disturbances (5). Eighteen additional subjects each generated a single original paper, including ADHD, ataxia, head trauma, hypertonia, intracranial hemorrhage, kinesigenic dyskinesia, papilloma, learning disability, neusopsychiatric disturbance, neurotoxicity, neurotransmitter diseases, papilloma, porencephaly, psychopathological evaluation, restless legs, sleep disturbances, spine trauma, and stiff skin syndrome.

Dr. Singer has participated in the writing of 80 detailed and memorable chapters, first or sole author of 45. The subjects of these chapters reflect his broad clinical and scientific interests. He was also lead editor or author of three books: Treatment of Pediatric Neurological Disorders (2005), and Movement Disorders of Childhood (1st Edition 2005, and 2nd Edition 2015). A total of 136 abstracts have been submitted and accepted for presentation at a wide variety of international professional organizations. From 1992 to the present, he has delivered 16 major invited or award lectures at universities and hospitals around the world, and one each at the CNS, AAP, and Movement Disorder Society. 98 invitations to speak in the United States, and participated in visiting professorships in New Mexico, Hawaii, Ohio, and Oregon, Quebec and Vermont.

Professor Singer has been a productive and thoughtful member throughout his career of numerous committees at Johns Hopkins. He has had additional important committee obligations with the American Academy of Pediatrics (1), The American Academy of Neurology (4), the Child Neurology Society (7). He has been involved for a considerable time on two scientific committees of the NIH, chairing the committee for the organization of the Tuberous Sclerosis Symposium of 2006. He has held a position of primary importance for the Tourette Syndrome Association for many years where he is on the Medical Advisory Board and four additional committees. He has been a member of the editorial boards of eight important professional journals and a longtime reviewer for ten such professional journals.  Throughout his career, Dr. Singer has participated in a long list of local, national, and international professional committees and societies, including President of the Professors of Child Neurology, Chairman of the Child Neurology Match Program Committee (for ten years), and Secretary/Treasurer of the Child Neurology Society.

Professor Singer has been the recipient of many honors and awards for achievements in research and as an exceptional educator. The first of these was the Upjohn Achievement Award for Research that he received in 1970 during his Pediatrics residency. He has held a Teacher Investigator Award from the NIH (1980-85), and he was a recipient of the Frank Ford Teaching Award at Hopkins. In 1990 was accorded special recognition with the Hildegaad Doerenkamp and Gerhard Zbinden Foundation Award for Realistic Animal Protection in Scientific Research. Professor Singer was elected to AOA in 1993. He has been listed in the Best Doctors in America since 1994. He received the Preston Robb Award of Montreal Children’s Hospital in 2003, and fulfilled the Stan Emery Visiting Professorship at the University of Vermont in 2010, and the Abby Stoddard Visiting Professorship of Denver Children’s Hospital in 2014. In 2013 he was the first individual to receive the Blue Bird Clinic Program Director’s Award of the Child Neurology Society. Fittingly, he is the 2016 recipient of the Hower Award of the Child Neurology Society.