Differential susceptibility in the making: Genetic moderators of maternal prenatal affect on stress reactivity and temperament in infants

Research project PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2016-0840, funded by UEFISCDI

Maternal stress during pregnancy has been consistently associated with atypical emotional
responses in human infants, as well as subsequent emotional difficulties in children and
adolescents. The long-term impact of maternal prenatal stress may involve programming effects
(i.e., enduring disorganization of neuroendocrine systems resulting from exposure to stress
during sensitive periods) on the developing hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal of the fetus. Recent
evidence indicates that maternal stress in the last trimester of pregnancy is related to neonatal
cortisol reactivity and temperament, and that genetic differences may moderate these relations.
The objectives of the present project are: (1) to investigate the relations between maternal affect
during the third trimester of pregnancy and infant stress reactivity and temperament; and (2) to
examine, based on the differential susceptibility model, several candidate genetic moderators that
may be involved in these relations. For the first time, experience sampling with mobile phones
will be used to characterize both positive and negative maternal prenatal affect in daily life.
Infant measures will include cortisol and behavioral responses to a vaccination procedure in the
first postnatal day, and laboratory assessments of temperament at 6 months. By characterizing
the "bright side" of maternal prenatal affect and identifying moderators that may decrease
offspring susceptibility to prenatal maternal stress, this project will identify targets for future
interventions designed to optimize the experience of pregnancy from a long-term
neurodevelopmental perspective. Due to its integrative and innovative character, we believe that
this project will have an impact in fundamental and translational research.



Research Team:
PI: Prof. Andrei C. Miu, Ph.D.
Sorin Andreica, M. D., Ph.D.
Romana Vulturar, M.D., Ph.D.
Adina Chiș, Ph.D.
Oana Benga, Ph.D.
Laura Visu-Petra, Ph.D.
Ramona Moldovan, Ph.D.
Ioana Bunea, Ph.D. Student




Bunea, I. M., Szentágotai-Tătar, A., & Miu, A. C. (2017). Early life adversity and cortisol
response to social stress: A meta-analysis. Translational Psychiatry 7(12), 1274.
https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-017-0032-3 [Impact Factor: 4.73]

Chiș, A., Vulturar, R., Andreica, S., Prodan, A., & Miu, A. C. (2017). Behavioral and cortisol
responses to stress in newborn infants: Effects of mode of delivery. Psychoneuroendocrinology
86, 203-208. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.09.024 [Impact Factor: 4.78]


Conference papers
Chiș, A., Vulturar, R., Andreica, S., Prodan, A. & Miu, A.C. Behavioral and cortisol responses to
stress in newborn infants: Effects of mode of delivery. Conferința Zilele Universității de
Medicină și Farmacie "Iuliu Hatieganu", 4-8 decembrie 2017. [poster]

Miu, A. C. De ce stresul în copilărie are efecte negative pentru restul vieții? A 3-a Conferință
HealthNow, București, 29 august 2017 [oral presentation]