Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London


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Technical Summary

Animal studies have shown that early life stress at moments when critical developmental processes are parts of the nervous system or neuronal circuits involved in HPA-axis functioning (e.g., hippocampus, amygdala, prefrontal cortex), may induce epigenetic changes that alter later function of the HPA axis and cause more enhanced stress sensitivity and impaired cognitive and emotional development, especially in genetically|individuals. Although there is now good evidence that prenatal stress can have a long lasting effect in humans there have been no studies of any interaction with underlying genetic factors, which may explain why some are more sensitive or resilient than others. The main goal of our CRP is to delineate specific risk factors prenatal stress exposure that can result in adverse neurodevelopment of the child. We have designed two|studies one of which involves recruiting a new cohort in which each of the four countries will follow an identical protocol and the second of which involves collecting DNA and new questionnaire data in our existing cohorts. feature of the first study is that we examine stress in early and late pregnancy to identify critical periods their associated outcomes. In the second study we maximize the value of existing samples within each country examine differences in exposure and outcomes at various child ages. The primary aims of our CRP are (the contribution of various types of antenatal maternal stress, including work stress and antenatal maternal level, for offspring birth outcomes and neurodevelopment in early childhood (2) to determine whether prenatal exposure interacts with measures of genetic susceptibility (i.e. specific candidate genes related to HPA-axis functioning), in predicting offspring neurodevelopmental outcome Results of our CRP may lead to prevention intervention strategies focusing on minimizing the risks prenatal stress bears for later mental health.|


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Description Early Champions
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Influencing the Early Champions advisory group which has influenced government policy for early intervention (pregnancy -2 years) to improve later outcomes for the child.
Description Graham Allen MP review on Early intervention
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Impact Had impact of including the importance of starting in pregnancy for early intervention.
Description website
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Title PELS data 
Description psychomteric data and biological samples from pregnant women and their one year old infants from 3 European sites 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of Data/Biological Samples 
Year Produced 2010 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Not yet analysed 
Description Brain MRI 
Organisation King's College London
Department MRC Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre (SDGP)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Supply of cohort of children with data on prenatal stress and in utero cortisol
Collaborator Contribution MRI studies on 6-9 year olds and prenatal stress
Impact Found that prenatal stress is associated with alterations in structure of spcific tract from limbic system to fronatal cortex, similar to that found in conduct disorder. paer submitted to Cortex
Start Year 2010
Description PELS Bea Vane den Bergh 
Organisation University of Tilburg
Country Netherlands, Kingdom of the 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have collected similar data from pregnant women and their one year old children
Collaborator Contribution They have collected data on maternal emotional state and work stress during pregnancy, maternal saliva cortisol and amylase and child cognitive and emotional development at one year. This is comparable to our data and we will be able to analyse it both together and separately.
Impact The data is currently being analysed. It will result in several peer reviewed publications. The work is multi-disciplary involving both psychologists and biologists
Start Year 2008
Description PELS Stephan Claes 
Organisation University of Leuven
Country Belgium, Kingdom of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have collected similar psychometric data from mothers and children which can be analysed both separately and together. WE have also collected DNA from both mothers and children in our cohort which they are analysing.
Collaborator Contribution They have collected data on the emotional and work stress of pregnant women, saliva cortisol and amylase and the cognitive and emotional development of their one year old children. They are also analysing DNA from mothers and children from our and their samples for selected SNPs.
Impact We are all currently analysing the data. It will results in several peer reviewed publications
Start Year 2008
Description Begin before Birth website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The website is intended for the general public, schools, universities and health professionals. It is to explain about the importance of the emotional state of the mother during pregnancy for the later outcome for the child. It has had over 450,000 hits from around the world and is being used in schools, colleges and in training health professionals.

It is going to be used in schools soon . It has been very well received health visitors who are going to cirulate it among their members.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013,2014,2015