B4292 - The Impact of Environmental Adversity on the Brain Identifying Biomarkers and Modifiers of Environmental Risk in Psychosis - 31/07/2023

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Kate Merritt | UCL (United Kingdom)
Professor Anthony David, Professor Derek Jones
Title of project: 
The Impact of Environmental Adversity on the Brain. Identifying Biomarkers and Modifiers of Environmental Risk in Psychosis
Proposal summary: 

Experiencing environmental adversity is associated with a greater likelihood of developing a mental health disorder. There is a need to identify biomarkers that predict the emergence of poor mental health outcomes following environmental adversity, as the targeted removal of these risk factors could reduce the rates of mental illness by up to a third. Understanding which environmental risk factors impact brain structure and function, and the identification of protective factors, could be the key to preventive medicine approaches. This current proposal would acquire magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children Generation 2 study (ALSPAC-G2). We are applying for funding from the Wellcome and MRC Career Development Awards.

As ALSPAC-G1 participants are now entering child-bearing age, this presents a unique opportunity to study their offspring (currently n=1875 and growing) to examine inter-generational determinants of mental health. The proposed project uses an accelerated longitudinal design, and would obtain MRI scans in 200 children aged between 5 and 15, who would be followed up and rescanned after 2 years. This project would examine trajectories of brain structure and function during critical periods of neurodevelopment, at a time when most mental disorders first occur.

Impact of research: 
This project has the potential to deliver important advances in our understanding of how environmental risk factors impact the brain. If social mobility is shown to be associated with beneficial brain changes, this will provide evidence for public health policy recommendations in support of environmental enrichment programmes. The G2 cohort are going through a period of dynamic brain development now, providing a unique opportunity to understand how the environment affects the brain. The success of this project will provide an invaluable resource of neuroimaging data for the community of ALSPAC researchers, and will allow future researchers to add follow-up MRI timepoints to examine neurodevelopment in these children.
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 21 June, 2023
Date proposal approved: 
Wednesday, 28 June, 2023
Neuroimaging, Mental health, MRI, Environment - enviromental exposure, pollution, Offspring