Plenary Interfaces

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MON May 28, 15:15-16:45

Plenary Interface 1
Moderator: Michel Dugnat
Prenatal stress and placenta function: reseach and clinic
Frances Champagne (USA), Birgit Arabin (Germany) 

Exposure to prenatal stress can have a lasting impact on neurodevelopmental and behavioral outcomes.  Stress-associated alterations in DNA methylation globally and within the regulatory region of target genes may account for these long-term effects and may occur within the developing brain and the placenta to shape neurobehavioral outcomes.  In this talk, I will highlight basic research using a rodent model of chronic variable stress (CVS) exposure and analyses of the impact of perceived psychosocial stress (PSS) in human mothers to explore the epigenetic effects of prenatal stress in both the brain and placenta.  Collectively, these data indicate that while there are sex-specific and tissue-specific effects of prenatal stress, there is a generalized dysregulation of enzymes involved in both de novo and maintenance DNA methylation patterns that can account for long-term epigenetic and neurobehavioral outcomes.  The implications of these findings for identifying risk biomarkers in the placenta will be discussed.      

Low BW has been shown to be associated with “hostility”, e.g. a rival cynic personality with mistrust and negative affections in adult life, which again is combined with cardiovascular disease. It was shown in studies about the Dutch Hunger Winter that mothers who conceived during the famine and hunger was continued during the first trimester were at increased risk that their children later had schizophrenia, depression, or inadequate stress responsiveness Both (poor) fetal growth and antenatal maternal emotional well-being or psychosocial stress predict the risk for later psychopathology. Gestational age and BW explained only 1% of additional variance in child emotional/behavioral difficulties when maternal mental health and socioeconomic status variables were considered! Nevertheless, the effects of maternal care or socioeconomic status are greater among children with LBW compared with normal birth weight offspring. Taken together, these findings may form the basis for integrative models of fetal neurodevelopment and early interventions.
Nurturing care in early life is essential to enable children to become citizens with adequate creative intellectual and emotional skills. Within the past decade numerous epidemiological and case-control studies show neurodevelopmental disorders in offspring exposed to maternal stress during pregnancy: The outcome of infants from 5 to 18 months of age that were exposed to maternal psychosocial stress  implied that the main outcome is at the cognitive and temperamental levels.
High levels of pregnancy-specific anxiety and maternal trait anxiety during pregnancy may persist after the delivery predicting higher levels of parenting stress and leading to negative perceptions of parenting-related issues.  This can program life-time trajectories of the infant, which in interaction with genetic liabilities or even with poor fetal growth and early-life challenges, will determine the ultimate health. Early adversity and nurturing care is linked with brain development and brain function throughout the life course and the placenta is one of the mediators during pregnancy.
It is estimated that 250 million children (43%) younger than 5 years are at risk of not reaching their developmental potential. There is therefore an urgent need to consider nutrition, responsive caregiving, and early learning for children to develop the intellectual skills, creativity, and wellbeing required to become healthy and happy adults.


TUE May 29, 15:15-16:45
Plenary Interface 2
Moderator: Reija Latva
Fathers and sons
Hiram Fitzgerald
(USA), Miri Keren (Israel)

“Father involvement in child development: Why do so many sons grow up to be violent?” Research on father involvement can be compartmentalized into two main domains: the effects of father presence and the presumed effects of father absence. We will provide an overview of theory and research on fathers in the context of the development of children’s behavioral undercontrol and aggression during infancy and early childhood. Paternal psychopathology will be connected to epigenetically organized set points that influence mental representations of self, other, and self-other relationships presumed to underlie aggression and violence in males.
“Fathers’ psychological presence as related to their Co-parenthood Constellation: Clinical reflections”. Two clinical families will be described, one about an extremely passive father who refuses to take his role as an authority figure for his 3 boys and adopts an extremely passive aggressive position towards his borderline personality disordered wife, the other about a father who insists taking an active role, in spite of his wife’s wish to be the only caregiver for their daughter. We will show the link between these opposite paternal behaviors and the way they have internalized the co-parenting style of their own parents (what I name co-parenthood constellation) in their respective childhoods. In the first case, the father experienced a total lack of co-parenting alliance, in the second case, at the opposite, the father had experienced a balanced co-parenting and could not understand his wife’s lack of trust in his parenting capacities.