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Measurement Webinar - "Data Linkage" featuring Kimberlyn McGrail, PhD (Scientific Director, Population Data BC) and Anne Gadermann, PhD (Assistant Professor, Human Early Learning Partnership, School of Population and Public Health). August 1, 2019, 11am-noon PT. REGISTER HERE.

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Mechanisms of Stress in the Brain

By Bruce S. McEwen, Nicole P. Bowles, Jason D. Gray, Matthew N. Hill, Richard G. Hunter, Ilia N. Karatsoreos & Carla Nasca.

The brain is the central organ involved in perceiving and adapting to social and physical stressors via multiple interacting mediators, from the cell surface to the cytoskeleton to epigenetic regulation and nongenomic mechanisms. A key result of stress is structural remodeling of neural architecture, which may be a sign of successful adaptation, whereas persistence of these changes when stress ends indicates failed resilience. Excitatory amino acids and glucocorticoids have key roles in these processes, along with a growing list of extra- and intracellular mediators that includes endocannabinoids and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). The result is a continually changing pattern of gene expression mediated by epigenetic mechanisms involving histone modifications and …

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Neighborhood Adversity, Child Health, and the Role for Community Development

By Douglas P. Jutte, Jennifer L. Miller and David J. Erickson

Despite medical advances, childhood health and well-being have not been broadly achieved due to rising chronic diseases and conditions related to child poverty. Family and neighborhood living conditions can have lasting consequences for health, with community adversity affecting health outcomes in significant part through stress response and increased allostatic load. Exposure to this “toxic stress” influences gene expression and brain development with direct and indirect negative consequences for health. Ensuring healthy child development requires improving conditions in distressed, high-poverty neighborhoods by reducing children’s exposure to neighborhood stressors and supporting good family and caregiver functioning. The community development industry invests more than $200 billion annually in low-income neighborhoods, with the goal …

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Modifiable early-life risk factors for childhood adiposity and overweight: an analysis of their combined impact and potential for prevention

By Siân M Robinson, Sarah R Crozier, Nicholas C Harvey, Benjamin D Barton, Catherine M Law, Keith M Godfrey, Cyrus Cooper, and Hazel M Inskip

Background: Early life may be a “critical period” when appetite and regulation of energy balance are programmed, with lifelong consequences for obesity risk. Insight into the potential impact of modifying early-life risk factors on later obesity can be gained by evaluating their combined effects. Objective: The objective was to examine the relation between the number of early-life risk factors and obesity outcomes among children in a prospective birth cohort (Southampton Women’s Survey). Design: Five risk factors were defined: maternal obesity [prepregnant body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2) >30], excess gestational weight gain (Institute of Medicine, 2009), smoking during pregnancy, low maternal vitamin D status ( Results: Of the children, 148 …

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The Biological Embedding of Child Abuse, and Implications for Policy and Practice: CFP Webinar

By Seth Pollak and Sara Jaffee for the University-Based Child and Family Policy (CFP) Consortium in collaboration with the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD)

This webinar was hosted by the University-Based Child and Family Policy (CFP) Consortium, which is run in collaboration with the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD). Drs. Cheryl Boyce and Valerie Maholmes from the National Institutes of Health moderated the webinar. Drs. Seth Pollak (University of Wisconsin – Madison) and Sara Jaffee (University of Pennsylvania) served as presenters. Dr. Caitlin McPherran Lombardi (Boston College) organized the webinar. The webinar was held on December 2, 2014.   The presentation by Dr. Pollak drew on his research, including findings from a study recently published in Child Development on “Associations Between Early Life Stress and Gene Methylation in Children” (Click HERE to …

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Fetal programming of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases: the role of epigenetic factors

By Monica Piras, Vassilios Fanos, Alberto Ravarino, Maria Antonietta Marcialis, Laura Vinci, Maria Cristina Pintus and Gavino Faa

In this paper, the main epigenetic factors involved in shaping the brain’s physical structure during development will be reviewed, with special emphasis on those related to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease in adulthood. These factors are: preterm delivery, maternal diet, trace metals, intrauterine infection, maternal stress, drugs, alcohol. Epigenetics may allow a novel therapeutic and preventive approach for neurodegeneration.   Read full article  

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The Biological Embedding of Child Abuse and Neglect: Implications for Policy and Practice

By Sara Jaffee and Cindy Christian

Each year within the US alone over 770,000 children are victimized by abuse and neglect (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2010), and this figure is likely to underestimate the extent of the problem. Researchers have long recognized that maltreatment has adverse effects on children’s mental health and academic achievement. Studies of adults show that adverse childhood experiences like maltreatment increase risk for chronic diseases of aging, including Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. What the field does not fully understand is why maltreatment has such pervasive effects. Studies on the neuroscience of maltreatment have begun to offer some clues. Victims of maltreatment differ from non-victims with respect to …

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Neural Plasticity in Fathers of Human Infants

By Pilyoung Kim, Paola Rigo, Linda C. Mayes, Ruth Feldman, James F. Leckman and James E. Swain

Fathering plays an important role in infants’ socioemotional and cognitive development. Previous studies have identified brain regions that are important for parenting behavior in human mothers. However, the neural basis of parenting in human fathers is largely unexplored. In the current longitudinal study, we investigated structural changes in fathers’ brains during the first four months postpartum using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis. Biological fathers (n=16) with full-term, healthy infants were scanned at 2–4 weeks postpartum (Time 1) and at 12–16 weeks postpartum (Time 2). Fathers exhibited increases in gray matter volume in several neural regions involved in parental motivation, including the hypothalamus, amygdala and striatum and lateral prefrontal cortex. On the …

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Early Developmental Conditioning of Later Health and Disease: Physiology or Pathophysiology?

By M. A. Hanson and P. D. Gluckman

Extensive experimental animal studies and epidemiological observations have shown that environmental influences during early development affect the risk of later pathophysiological processes associated with chronic, especially noncommunicable, disease (NCD). This field is recognized as the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD). We discuss the extent to which DOHaD represents the result of the physiological processes of developmental plasticity, which may have potential adverse consequences in terms of NCD risk later, or whether it is the manifestation of pathophysiological processes acting in early life but only becoming apparent as disease later. We argue that the evidence suggests the former, through the operation of conditioning processes induced across the normal range …

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Associations Between Early Life Stress and Gene Methylation in Children

By Sarah E. Romens, Jennifer McDonald, John Svaren and Seth D. Pollak

Children exposed to extreme stress are at heightened risk for developing mental and physical disorders. However, little is known about mechanisms underlying these associations in humans. An emerging insight is that children’s social environments change gene expression, which contributes to biological vulnerabilities for behavioral problems. Epigenetic changes in the glucocorticoid receptor gene, a critical component of stress regulation, were examined in whole blood from 56 children aged 11–14 years. Children exposed to physical maltreatment had greater methylation within exon 1F in the NR3C1 promoter region of the gene compared to nonmaltreated children, including the putative NGFI-A (nerve growth factor) binding site. These results highlight molecular mechanisms linking childhood stress with …

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Youth Vulnerabilities in Life Course Transitions

By Abby Hardgrove, Kirrily Pells, Jo Boyden and Paul Dornan

This paper examines youth vulnerabilities, with a particular emphasis on low- and middle-income countries. It touches on the challenges confronted by young people exposed to extreme, life-threatening circumstances, such as political violence and armed conflict, but focuses on vulnerabilities that emerge in key transitions experienced by most young people, such as those linked to school, work, partnership and parenthood. Such vulnerabilities not only hold young people back, but also are a barrier to capitalising on the demographic dividend. The paper employs a life-course perspective, highlighting the relationship between early influences and later outcomes, and examining individual life trajectories within a societal context. It draws on a range of secondary sources, …

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