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The possible association between maternal early life adversities, cortisol levels and the sex of the neonate

Grant number: 20/15286-0
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Scientific Initiation
Effective date (Start): January 01, 2021
Effective date (End): December 31, 2021
Field of knowledge:Health Sciences - Medicine - Psychiatry
Acordo de Cooperação: National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Principal Investigator:Ivaldo da Silva
Grantee:Lucas de Oliveira Siqueira
Host Institution: Escola Paulista de Medicina (EPM). Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UNIFESP). Campus São Paulo. São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:19/21612-0 - Maternal adversity, inflammation, and neurodevelopment: how intergenerational processes perpetuate disadvantage in a low-resource setting, AP.TEM


Exposure to adverse events in childhood (emotional and physical abuse by parents, multiple episodes of violence and sexual abuse) is associated with deleterious effects on the development of children and adolescents and predict the development of depressive and anxious disorders throughout life. There is growing evidence that exposure to early stressors can increase the risk for psychopathology through epigenetic mechanisms. There is emerging evidence to suggest that the neurobiological effects of stress vary at different stages of development. Stress during the pregnancy period, or prenatal stress, is associated with multiple of these negative results in the offspring life, and in the form of exposure to chronic or acute stressors, such as violence, depression and / or anxiety, can influence the fetal development in several ways. Epigenetic regulation of the placental genome can influence placental function and signaling, with long-term impacts on fetal health. In a recent study, a group of researchers demonstrated the presence of various proteins, isoforms of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), in the placenta. The sex of the fetus appears to have an important effect on the relationship between cortisol levels on fetal neurodevelopment. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in extreme and stressful situations, and is directly involved in the response to fight and flight situations, which is why it is known as "stress hormone". In high doses in the body, cortisol has a harmful action, leading to a chronic concentration of high levels of this hormone in the blood, and triggering constant stress levels, increased irritability and changes related to the deterioration of metabolism. However, the influence of early stress, cortisol levels and the sex of the baby during the period of fetal development and in the first year of life have not yet been fully elucidated.

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