Arkansas Children’s Research Institute (ACRI) and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) have received $7.2 million in funding over five years from the National Institutes of Health to continue their participation in the nationwide HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) Study.
The HBCD Study will establish a large cohort of pregnant women and follow them and their children for at least 10 years. Findings from this cohort will provide a template of normative neurodevelopment and a better understanding of how prenatal and perinatal experiences impact brain and behavioral development. This research infrastructure can also be leveraged for urgent health needs, such as the current impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s development or future health and environmental crises.
The study involves 25 academic centers across the United States and will collect data on pregnancy and fetal development; infant and early childhood structural and functional brain imaging; anthropometrics; medical history; family history; biospecimens; and social, emotional and cognitive development. Knowledge gained from this research will help identify factors that confer risk or resilience that affect a child’s mental and physical health developmental trajectory.
The funding follows 18-month planning grants awarded to ACRI and 28 other academic centers from around the country focused on designing the HBCD Study.
In Arkansas, the work will be led by ACRI and UAMS investigators Xiawei Ou, PhD, a professor of radiology and pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine; Ashley Acheson, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry at the UAMS College of Medicine; and Lorraine McKelvey, PhD, a professor of family and preventive medicine and pediatrics at the UAMS College of Medicine.
“We are extremely excited to be representing ACRI, UAMS and Arkansas on this landmark study working with top research institutes from across the country,” Acheson said in a press release. “We see the HBCD Study as having the potential to substantially improve our understanding of how early life experiences influence brain, cognitive and emotional development. Ultimately we expect this increased knowledge to lead to interventions to help improve outcomes for vulnerable children and their families.”
The ACRI/UAMS research team also includes:
- Aline Andres, PhD, professor of pediatrics at the UAMS College of Medicine;
- Jessica Coker, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and obstetrics and gynecology at the UAMS College of Medicine;
- Charles Glasier, MD, professor of radiology and pediatrics at the UAMS College of Medicine;
- Whit Hall, MD, professor of pediatrics at the UAMS College of Medicine;
- Micah Hester, PhD, professor of medical humanities and pediatrics at the UAMS College of Medicine;
- Andrew James, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at the UAMS College of Medicine;
- Linda Larson-Prior, PhD, professor of psychiatry, neurology, biomedical informatics, and neurobiology & developmental science at the UAMS College of Medicine; and
- Leanne Whiteside-Mansell, EdD, professor of family and preventive medicine at the UAMS College of Medicine.