New Department of Psychiatry faculty member James E. Swain, M.D., Ph.D., F.R.C.P.C., recently received a federal Grand Opportunity grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the amount of $721,877. The research study entitled, “Childhood Poverty and Brain Development: Roles of Chronic Stress and Parenting,” aims to determine how childhood poverty influences adult brain structure and function, and what underlying biological and social mechanisms mediate childhood poverty-brain relationships. Researchers hypothesize that chronic physiological stress dysregulation (elevated allostatic load) as well as harsh, unresponsive parenting during childhood will account for some of the expected linkages between childhood poverty and adult brain structure and function. The study is for two years and includes collaboration with Cornell University faculty member Gary Evans, Ph.D., the Elizabeth Lee Vincent Professor of Psychology, and U-M Department of Psychiatry faculty member Israel Liberzon, M.D., who are both co-principal investigators for the study. The GO grant team at the University of Michigan also includes Co-Investigators K. Luan Phan M.D., and Robert Welsh Ph.D., plus postdoctoral fellows Sarah Garfinkel Ph.D. and Shaun Ho Ph.D. as well as study coordinator Hedieh Briggs.
Grand Opportunity funding will allow the research team to conduct a unique functional neuroimaging study in a subset of participants from Dr. Evans’ current longitudinal poverty study, particularly well characterized throughout childhood through age 22 for family income, stressor exposures, physiological stress responses, socioemotional development, and parent-child/youth interactions. The juxtaposition of sophisticated and comprehensive structural and functional neuroimaging investigations with the longitudinal data cohort on childhood poverty will allow an unprecedented opportunity to investigate specific links among childhood poverty, chronic stress, parenting and brain physiology.
Dr. Swain is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychiatric Affective Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of Michigan while maintaining his role as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Child Study Center for Yale University. A child psychiatrist with clinical interests in parent-child relationships, peripartum mood/anxiety and infant/child development, Dr. Swain is currently setting-up research efforts to continue and expand his work on the human parental brain, using brain imaging combined with coordinated interview and behavioral assessments. In addition, Dr. Swain’s recent move to Ann Arbor brings a Young Investigator Award from NARSAD (National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression) to the U-M Department of Psychiatry, which is devoted to the study of parental brain structure and function in health and postpartum depression using baby cries and pictures to stimulate the brain during functional brain imaging.