Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
The Healthy Brain and Child Development Study

The Healthy Brain and Child Development Study

Koraly Perez-Edgar
MPI: Koraly Pérez-Edgar, PhD
Penn State University
Aleksandra Zgierska
MPI: Aleksandra Zgierska, MD, PhD
Penn State University

NIH  U01DA055361
Administered in: College of the Liberal Arts and College of Medicine


Neurodevelopmental processes are shaped by dynamic interactions between genes and environments. Maladaptive experiences early in life can alter developmental trajectories, leading to harmful and enduring developmental consequences. Pre- and postnatal hazards include maternal substance exposure, toxicant exposures in pregnancy and early life, maternal health conditions, parental psychopathology, maltreatment, structural racism, and excessive stress. To elucidate how various environmental hazards impact child development, it is imperative that a normative template of developmental trajectories over the first 10 years of life be established based on a sufficiently large and demographically diverse sample of the US population. To accomplish this, the Healthy Brain and Child Development Study will deploy a harmonized, optimized, and innovative set of neuroimaging (MRI, EEG) measures complemented by an extensive battery of behavioral, physiological, and psychological tools, and biospecimens to understand neurodevelopmental trajectories in a sample of 7,500 mothers and infants enrolled at 25 sites across the United States (US). HBCD will assemble and distribute a comprehensive and well-curated research dataset to the scientific community. The overarching goal of the HBCD is to create a comprehensive, harmonized, and high-dimensional dataset that will characterize typical neurodevelopmental trajectories in US children and that will assess how biological and environmental exposures affect those trajectories. A special emphasis will be placed on understanding the impact of pre- and postnatal exposure to opioids, marijuana, alcohol, tobacco and/or other substances. To address these broad objectives, the sample of women enrolled will include: 1) a racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse cohort that is representative of the US population; 2) pregnant woman with use of targeted substances (opioids, marijuana, alcohol, tobacco); and 3) demographically and behaviorally similar women without substance use in pregnancy to enable valid causal inferences. In addition, HBCD will identify key developmental windows during which both harmful and protective environments have the most influence on later neurodevelopmental outcomes. The large, multi-modal, longitudinal, and generalizable dataset will provide novel insights into child development using state- of-the-art methods. The HBCD study will inform public policy to improve the health and development of children across the nation.

Additional Faculty:

Dara Babinski
Dara Babinski, MA, PhD
Psychiatry and Behavioral Health
Tammy E. Corr
Tammy E. Corr, DO
Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine
Michele Diaz, PhD
Danielle Downs
Danielle Symons Downs, PhD
Kinesiology and Obstetrics & Gynecology
Rina Das Eiden
Rina Das Eiden, PhD
Sangam G. Kanekar
Sangam G. Kanekar, MD
Diagnostic Radiology, Neuroradiology, Radiology
Jaimie L. Maines, MD, FACOG
Maternal & Fetal Medicine, Obstetrics & Gynecology
Jenae Neiderhiser
Jenae Neiderhiser, PhD
Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies
Wen-Jan Tuan, DHA, MPH, MS
Family and Community Medicine