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Boston Children’s Hospital to co-lead a 25-center NIH-funded study of brain development from birth to age 10

Study will investigate how a broad range of exposures affect brain and child development

BOSTON, Nov. 17, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Boston Children’s Hospital has been awarded two five-year grants by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to co-lead the HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) study, an ambitious, comprehensive national study of brain development from birth through early childhood.

The study will enroll about 7,500 pregnant mothers and their infants at 25 sites across the United States, including Boston Children’s, and follow the children from birth to the age of 10 years. The findings will provide a “template” for healthy brain development and give insight into how environmental factors — poverty, nutrition, pollution, maternal stress, maternal drug use, COVID-19 infection, and more — may alter infants’ developmental trajectories.

“To understand how different exposures affect brain development, we need a template of what typical brain development looks like,” says Charles Nelson, PhD, chair of Developmental Medicine Research at Boston Children’s Hospital, who is co-principal investigator of the study’s administrative core.

Boston Children’s and the other research sites will collect a wide range of data on pregnancy and fetal development; medical and family history; brain structure and function in infancy and early childhood; and each child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. Mothers and children will also provide biological samples (teeth, blood, hair) for studies of environmental exposures.

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