The burgeoning research field known variously as the fetal origins of adult disease (FOAD), or the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHAD), demonstrates that maternal distress during pregnancy affects fetal and infant brain–behavior development. This is a ‘third pathway’ for the familial inheritance of psychiatric illness beyond shared genes and the quality of parental care, and one that, if fully understood, could lead to early prevention of developmental risk. Moreover, it is increasingly accepted that there are bi–directional influences between mother and fetus, mother and infant, which can be accessed in preventative treatments for the benefit of each member of the dyad.
In this lecture, Dr. Monk will describe her lab’s FOAD studies that focus on women in the perinatal period and fetal and infant neurobehavioral developmental including direct studies of the fetus, newborn brain imaging, and placental methylation. She also will review her lab’s intervention for perinatal depression that works through the close dyadic interaction of the mother and child.