News Uncategorized

FASD Awareness Day

September 9th was FASD awareness day. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a brain-based disorder that is very common. It is estimated to affect 4% of Canadians. People with FASD may face a variety of learning, behaviour, and mental health challenges throughout their lives. With the right supports, people with FASD can be very successful.

Our lab works hard to better udnerstand the brain basis of FASD and its links with mental health. Yesterday, we walked in support of FASD Awareness Day.

Check out our projects, or learn more about participating in our research.

Hiring a Research Coordinator

We are hiring a research coordinator! Looking for someone who is keen on working with children and families to oversee multiple research projects in the lab related to brain development, mental health, and reading. This is a full time position renewable annually. Apply here:

Outdoor Lab Gathering

We were so delighted to finally be able to see each other in person since the COVID restrictions were set in place. Here is a photo from our first lab outdoor gathering since last year!

Brain Mapping Seminar White Matter Development Talk

Our associate professor, Catherine Lebel, presented a talk on how white matter matures throughout childhood and adolescence. Here is a quick blurb on the talk:

“Brain white matter matures throughout childhood and adolescence, and this maturation can be measured in different ways. The most commonly used method is diffusion tensor imaging, which is highly sensitive to white matter changes, but not very specific. Longitudinal data is essential to appropriately measure changes over time, but relatively few studies have used longitudinal neuroimaging to characterize white matter development within participants. In this talk, I will share some of the recent work from my lab looking at typical white matter development from early childhood to adolescence using diffusion imaging and other white matter imaging techniques. I will also present results showing atypical brain connectivity and brain development in young children with prenatal alcohol exposure, and in infants and children who experienced prenatal maternal psychological distress.”

Bell Let’s Talk Day

Pregnant individuals are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to the general population. Levels of symptoms have increased by 3-4 times during the COVID-19 pandemic. Symptoms of depression and anxiety compromise a pregnant parent’s wellness and have been related to child behavioural outcomes that confer risk for later mental illness in children themselves. There is also evidence that prenatal mental health is associated with child brain development, particularly in regions of the brain that regulate emotion. In this way, mental health reaches beyond individuals into families and communities. 

On Bell Let’s Talk Day 2021, it is important that we recognize the increased levels of anxiety and depression experienced by mothers in the past year and talk about how best we can support pregnant parents and their children.

As part of our Pregnancy During the Pandemic study, mothers have completed questionnaires about their mental health. Infant children and their parents have been invited to the hospital to have pictures taken of the infant’s brain using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We will study different regions and measures of the child brain and relate them to the mental health of their parent across multiple time points in pregnancy. Through this work we aim to identify when in pregnancy or postpartum the child brain appears to be most sensitive to the effects of prenatal mental health and stress, and we will provide evidence for when support and interventions for pregnant individuals may be most effective. Stay tuned for our findings!