Research looks at the relationship between fetal health during pregnancy and later development of the brain

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A new Canada Research Chair (CRC) at The University of Western Ontario is studying the relationship between fetal health during pregnancy and later development of the brain.

Lawson Health Research Institute Scientist and Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Paediatrics and Physiology & Pharmacology at The University of Western Ontario, Dr. Bryan Richardson has been named Tier One Canada Research Chair in Fetal/Neonatal Health & Development.

Adverse conditions during pregnancy or early childhood can alter developmental processes and lead to health problems later in life, including hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Disturbed brain development may also lead to later cognitive impairment, attention deficit disorder and, potentially, schizophrenia.

Dr. Richardson seeks to better understand the conditions during pregnancy and the neonatal period that will shape development later in life. As it is estimated about five per cent of human pregnancies result in intermittent oxygen deficiencies as a result of umbilical cord compression, he will also study how altered amounts of oxygen and nutrition affect the growth and development of the brain and cause irregularities.

With a better understanding of the triggers that impact development, Richardson plans to study markers for altered neurodevelopment, longer-term outcomes and the potential for brain plasticity, which is the ability to adapt to changed circumstances and uncover new ways to learn. He will also investigate a variety of therapies, including “enriched stimulus environments.”

“I am honored to be considered in this regard alongside other outstanding Canadian investigators supported by the CRC program,” says Richardson. “This award will enable the cross-linking of multiple areas of expertise here at Western focused on the brain’s development as we seek to improve the lives of children with neurologic impairments through to adulthood.”

“Dr. Richardson is a global leader in his field and we are thrilled that he has been recognized as such by the Canada Research Chairs program,” says Ted Hewitt, Acting Vice-President (Research). “This appointment demonstrates yet again that the culture of innovation and discovery is alive and well in London.”

Western has been allocated 71 of the nation’s 2,000 Canada Research Chairs. Tier one CRCs are awarded to outstanding researchers who have developed reputations as world-leaders in their field. The University receives $200,000 annually for seven years to fund their research. Tier two CRCs are awarded to exceptional and emerging researchers recognized for having the potential to lead the field. Tier two CRCs are granted $100,000 annually for five years.


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