Arkansas Children’s, UAMS awarded $7.2 million to study childhood development

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 530 views 

Arkansas Children’s Research Institute (ACRI), the research arm of Arkansas Children’s in Little Rock, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) will receive $7.2 million in funding over five years from the National Institutes of Health to continue their participation in a nationwide early childhood research project — HEALthy Brain and Child Development Study (HBCD)

According to a news release, the study will establish a large cohort of pregnant women and follow them and their children for at least 10 years. Findings will provide a template of normative neurodevelopment and a better understanding of how prenatal and perinatal experiences impact brain and behavioral development. The researchers said the findings can also be leveraged for urgent health needs such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s development and future health and environmental impact.

In Arkansas, the work will be led by ACRI and UAMS investigators Xiawei Ou, a professor of radiology and pediatrics at UAMS, Ashley Acheson, an associate professor of psychiatry at UAMS and Lorraine McKelvey, a professor of family and preventive medicine and pediatrics at UAMS.

“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. “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 researchers said the study involves 25 academic centers across the United States that 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. The research will help identify factors that confer risk or resilience that affect a child’s mental and physical health.

According to the release, 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.