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Maternal care and child neurodevelopment: A longitudinal gene x environment analysis of socio-emotional development with an integrated approach

Principal Investigator:
  • Lawrence Chen, McGill University
  • Azrieli Foundation
  • McGill University

Project Overview

Maternal depression, particularly during pregnancy, has been well established as a risk factor for child socio-emotional problems. However, the impact varies across the population, as some individuals are resilient. Their genetic architecture may hold the secrets to the differential susceptibility. Mr. Chen’s research looks at how genomic risk profile for neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorders, particularly attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—a highly heritable, childhood-onset disorder—moderates antenatal maternal influences on socio-emotional outcomes in children. Specifically, he follows the developmental course of a Canadian birth cohort (MAVAN) to understand how maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy interact with child genomic risk profile to predict their socio-emotional traits and psychopathological development. The project also aims to describe the biological pathways that play a key role in the interaction effect and how it associates with the developing brain. Overall, the project integrates approaches and techniques from genomics, psychology, neuroimaging, and informatics. Ultimately, the research can help lead to developing effective environmental interventions or even pharmaceutical treatments that target “susceptibility” genes or biological mechanisms to help individuals who are at a greater risk for neurodevelopmental and mental health problems.