Boston Children’s Hospital received two five-year grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to jointly lead the HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) study, an ambitious, comprehensive national study of brain development from birth to early childhood.
The study will include about 7,500 pregnant mothers and their babies in 25 locations in the United States, including Boston Children’s, and will track children from birth to 10 years of age. The findings will provide a “template” for healthy brain development and will give an idea of how environmental factors -; poverty, nutrition, pollution, maternal stress, maternal drug use, COVID-19 infection and others -; can change the trajectory of development of babies.
To understand how different exposures can change brain development, we need a template for what typical brain development looks like. “
Charles Nelson, Ph.D., chair of research on developmental medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, co-PI of the administrative core of the study
Boston Children’s and other research sites will collect a wide range of data on pregnancy and fetal development; medical and family history; structure and function of the brain in early and early childhood; and the social, emotional, and cognitive development of each child. Mothers and children will also provide biological samples (teeth, blood, hair) to test for environmental exposure.
At Boston Children’s, participants will be observed at the hospital’s new Brain, Mind and Behavior Center. The team will make a special effort to include people from different backgrounds, including populations that are usually underrepresented in the research.
“We want to understand the big picture and involve as diverse a population as possible,” said Ellen Grant, MD, director of the Boston Children’s Center’s Neuroimaging and Neonatal Research Center and principal investigator of the HBCD Children’s Center. Boston with Michelle Bosquet Enlow, Ph.D., a psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “We want to know which factors are the most important to pay attention to, including factors that make some children more resilient than others.
“We’ve known for some time that the early years of life are crucial to shaping long-term developmental and health outcomes,” said Bosket Enlow, who studies how intergenerational effects such as maternal trauma affect mental and physical health and neurodevelopment. child’s. “This study will help us better understand which experiences are most important for influencing health and well-being.”
Ultimately, the HBCD study aims to identify areas where policies and practices can best help protect children’s neurodevelopment and health. Anonymous data from HBCD will be freely provided to the larger research community.
Officially launched in October, with recruitment due to begin in 2022, the HBCD survey is funded by 10 institutes and offices at the National Institutes of Health and “Aid to end long-term addiction”SM Initiative, or NIH HEAL initiativeSM, and is run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Boston Children’s Hospital