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  • About

    Group leader: Daniel Schechter & Sandra Rusconi Serpa
    Affiliation: Psychiatry

    The Geneva Early Childhood Stress Project integrates multiple scientific methods towards the testing of our main hypothesis that normative distress in infancy and early childhood poses a formidable stress to traumatized parents, thereby leading to problems of psychophysiologic regulation within the parent-child relationship during sensitive periods in very young children's social-emotional development. Our group is specifically examining what effects maternal violence-related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and related comorbid conditions might have on mother-child interaction in both psychological and behavioral terms, as well as in terms of associated stress-reactivity within the HPA-axis and autonomic nervous system in both mothers and children. The present study underway relies also on the use of functional neuroimaging and genetics to identify endophenotypes that might contribute to risk vs. resilience. The study is both cross-sectional and longitudinal, in that it examines individual child outcomes, as well as endophenotypic patterns in mothers and their children over time. Our research group is also engaged in the manualization and development of evidence-based interventions to address the psychophysiologic dysregulation in traumatized families and to reduce the likelihood of intergenerational transmission of trauma and violence.

    The Geneva Early Childhood Stress Project is a component study of the SNSF-funded NCCR: Synaptic Basis of Mental Diseases (SYNAPSY). Within the recent re-configuration of this NCCR-SYNAPSY, the project has become an essential part of "Axis II" which is composed of clinical and basic neuroscience projects that focus on the impact of environmental factors, principally early life stress on biology and developmental psychopathology (Axis II Leaders: Fran├žois Ansermet, Alexandre Dayer, Carmen Sandi). The Geneva Early Childhood Stress Project works in tandem with its translational counterpart involving a rodent-model under the direction of Maria Isabel Cordero and Carmen Sandi (EPFL). The Geneva Early Childhood Stress Project also functions under the auspices of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Research Unit (Unit Chief and Co-Principal Investigator: Sandra Rusconi Serpa). The Early Childhood-Family Stress Project has received and continues to receive additional private funding. A new epigenetic pilot study involving the same sample is underway in collaboration with the Division of Psychiatric Genetics.

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