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An Initiative to End Family Violence (IEFV) Workshop:

5140The long shadow of trauma: Intergenerational transmission during gestation of the effects of maternal exposure to childhood trauma

Presented by Pathik D. Wadhwa, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry & Human Behavior, Obstetrics & Gynecology, and Pediatrics
Director, UC Irvine Development, Health and Disease Research Program

Date: Thursday, January 28, 2016
Time: 4:00-5:30 p.m.
Location: EDU 1131 (Bldg. 3) University of California School of Law (directions)
Logistics: This event is free and open to the public. For information on parking fees, please visit: https://www.parking.uci.edu/permits/

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Abstract

Exposure to childhood trauma (CT) such as physical, sexual or emotional abuse represents among the most pervasive and pernicious stressors in society. Its sequelae include adverse biological, psychological and behavioral conditions and states that may endure over the life span. Emerging evidence now suggests that the long shadow cast by childhood trauma may extend even beyond the exposed individual’s life span and be transmitted to another yet even more vulnerable population – their children. In this context, child brain development and processes related to obesity and metabolic dysfunction represent targets of particular interest. The prevailing paradigm posits that the mother-to-child transmission of the effects of maternal CT likely occurs after her child’s birth, mediated via the effects of CT-related states and behaviors such as maternal depression, reduced maternal sensitivity, or suboptimal mother-child attachment and parenting. We seek to extend this existing paradigm and advance here a trans-disciplinary, developmental framework that integrates the concepts of biological embedding of life experiences and fetal/developmental origins of health and disease. We posit this process of intergenerational transmission may start during gestation itself; that the period of embryonic/fetal life represents a particularly sensitive time window; that the developing fetal brain and peripheral metabolism represent targets of particular interest; and that maternal-placental-fetal endocrine, inflammatory, metabolic and oxytocinergic biology represent leading candidate pathways of transmission. The plausibility of our hypothesis is supported by theoretical considerations from evolutionary-developmental biology and empirical findings, including our own published and preliminary data. The presentation will elaborate on our conceptual framework, present recent findings from our on-going, prospective, cohort studies in humans about the impact of gestational conditions on the newborn and infant brain (structural and functional connectivity), body composition and metabolic function, and describe some newly-established and future directions of this work.

About the UC Irvine Development, Health and Disease Research Program

The UC Irvine Development, Health and Disease Research Program is a trans-disciplinary effort to elucidate the nature and consequences of the interplay between biological, behavioral, social and environmental conditions during early human development (intrauterine and early postnatal life) on subsequent health outcomes and the propensity, or susceptibility, for developing one or more of the complex common disorders that represent a major societal burden of disease. This program includes an interdisciplinary team of faculty investigators from UCI and several other institutions, and has, since its inception in 2000, been continuously funded by several major research grants from the NIH and other U.S.- and European-based agencies.