Child & Brain Development
How do childhood experiences affect lifelong health?
One child is born to a wealthy family. Another is born into a family living in poverty. The child born into wealth will probably live a longer and healthier life – but not always. Some children born into poverty have a resilience that enables them to thrive throughout their lives despite the hardships they experienced when very young.
The Child & Brain Development program examines the effect of the early environment on children, and how adversity can have life-long effects on health and development. Over the past decade, program members have transformed our understanding of the interplay between nature and nurture, and generated important findings related to the biological underpinning of our early experiences as children.
Recent advances in technology, increased access to data, and an interdisciplinary environment are creating new opportunities for program members to find the answer to why some children thrive and others do not.
Details for applicants to the CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars program
To better predict a child’s personalized response to experiences and interventions, we bring together Child & Brain Development program members with expertise in Machine Learning, Genetics/Epigenetics and Psychology, with new members and leaders in Developmental Neuroscience. The overarching focus is on the importance of timing within gene-environment interplay in context, given the larger appreciation that timing during development is an active process whose dynamics are influenced by epigenetics and experience, requiring novel thinking (e.g. biology of critical periods) and technologies (e.g. biomarkers, wearables) to track on an individual basis. Together, we propose new approaches for the field, alongside targeted studies that combine genetic and epigenetic analysis with EEG recording to measure oscillatory activity to test the underlying maturational state of cortical circuits. The fundamental contribution and an exciting new set of research priorities for the Child & Brain Development Program is related to the detection and reopening of critical periods. The program will explore these themes with scholars from diverse areas of expertise ranging from evolutionary primatology, child or adolescent psychopathology, robotics and machine learning, intervention science, developmental neuroscience, psychiatric epidemiology, science of learning, pediatrics, and others.
Hertzman, C. and W.T. Boyce “How experience gets under the skin to create gradients in developmental health.” Annu Rev Public Health 31 (2010): 329-47.
Kobayashi, Y., Z. Ye and T.K. Hensch. “Clock genes control cortical critical period timing.” Neuron 86(1) (2015): 264-75. ABSTRACT
Hensch, T.K. et al. “Local GABA Circuit Control of Experience-Dependent Plasticity in Developing Visual Cortex.” Science 282 (1998): 1504-1508. ABSTRACT
Path to Societal Impact
We invite experts in industry, civil society, healthcare and government to join fellows in our Child & Brain Development program for in-depth, cross-sectoral conversations that drive change and innovation.
Public policy leaders in early childhood and health and CIFAR fellows in the Child & Brain Development program are developing effective public policies and intervention programs that address health disparities and improve children’s development, health, and well-being.
Areas of focus:
- Examining the compounding effects of multiple early adversities on children
- Exploring opportunities for effective policy interventions
- Ensuring intervention programs are tailored to the needs of diverse communities
Do you want to shape the future of early childhood health?
Contact: Amy Cook, Senior Director, Knowledge Mobilization
2007, 2012, 2019
Genome British Columbia
Canada Life, The Joan and Clifford Hatch Foundation, Anonymous (1)
Developmental, molecular and evolutionary biology
Cognitive and developmental neuroscience
Biological, cognitive and developmental psychology
Fellows & Advisors
CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars
Research transforms how we think about early life experiencesSep 24, 2020
CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, as well as foundations, individuals, corporations and Canadian and international partner organizations.