- National Scientific Council on the Developing Child
- National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs
- Global Children's Initiative
- Frontiers of Innovation
- Science of Health and Development Initiative
- Students, Education and Leadership Development
Science of Health and Development Activities
The science of child development reveals a highly interactive process of genetic and environmental influences on outcomes. Policies and programs across a wide range of public and private sectors affect the capacities of caregivers and communities to affect these outcomes by strengthening three foundations of healthy development: stable, responsive relationships; safe, supportive environments; and appropriate nutrition. These foundations, in turn, trigger physiological adaptations or disruptions that influence lifelong health, learning, and behavior. The Science of Health and Development Initiative is designed to generate new knowledge and catalyze new ways of thinking to inform innovations in policy and practice that create a bright future for all children.
Planned upcoming activities of this initiative include:
- Establishing a program of seed funding for Harvard-based investigators;
- Hosting visiting scholars with expertise in the science of health and development from across the country and around the world;
- Supporting research projects in new areas of inquiry that bring together the biological and social sciences;
- Creating a forum where faculty members can connect and provide feedback for one another, thereby fostering creative, interdisciplinary work.
Conte Center at Harvard
Led by neurobiologist and Center on the Developing Child-affiliated faculty member Takao Hensch, Harvard scientists who are pioneers in the diverse fields of brain plasticity, connectomics, genomic imprinting, and super-resolution imaging are now collaborating with experts in bioinformatics to understand and communicate the changes in neural circuits that underlie disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression. In the fall of 2011, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) brought this team together with a $9 million grant to establish the Conte Center at Harvard, named in memory of the late Massachusetts congressman and champion of biomedical research funding, Silvio O. Conte. Learn more about the Conte Center's multidisciplinary research in this web feature.
"Mapping Brain Connectivity"
The new field of “connectomics” aims to show how brains behave at a level not previously possible—examining how entire brains are wired together, how wiring changes as brains grow up, and how interactions with the external world affect this wiring. The Lichtman Lab at Harvard University, a partner in the Conte Center at Harvard, pioneered tools to potentially map every connection in a complete brain and has started to map the connectome in mouse brains. In this narrated, 15-minute multimedia presentation, postdoctoral fellow Bobby Kashturi shares some of the results and insights from his work at the Lichtman Lab, using images and videos that show three-dimensional recreations of actual neural connections in the brain. He also discusses the future direction of this work in helping to understand how early adverse experiences affect connectivity.
Boston Children's Hospital
The Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience
These videos produced by Boston Children's Hospital provide an overview of the work and mission of the Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience (LCN), including the labs of Center affiliated faculty members Charles A. Nelson III, Ph.D., and Margaret Sheridan, Ph.D.
A Call to Action to Address Early Adversity and Toxic Stress
Policies and programs in the public and private sectors can either strengthen or weaken the three foundations necessary for healthy development: stable, responsive relationships; safe, supportive environments; and appropriate nutrition. In January 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a call to action in its policy statement, “Early Childhood Adversity, Toxic Stress, and the Role of the Pediatrician: Translating Developmental Science Into Lifelong Health.” This accompanied the technical report, “The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress.” Read more >>
Child & Family Mental Health
Emotional well-being is a critical part of the social and functional competence that is developed in the first years of life, and it affects a child’s later success in school and in human relationships. The Child Mental Health Network was launched by the Center in September 2008 to generate, integrate, communicate, and apply the science of children’s mental health to inform policy and practice, and to make scientific advances more transparent in order to inform public understanding. This work concluded in August 2011. Read more >>
Communicating Mental Health
As part of its larger research agenda with the Center, the FrameWorks Institute conducted a multi-year study of public perceptions in the United States about child and family mental health. FrameWorks’ investigation compared scientific discourse with public perceptions, using strategic frame analysis to close the gap between the way experts in the field write and talk about child mental health and how the public understands and thinks about this complex issue. FrameWorks’ research aims to find new ways to explain the science and policy implications of child and family mental health for both policymakers and the general public. This report’s findings emphasize the importance of early intervention for children who experience symptoms of mental distress to help them avoid long-term adverse outcomes.
The Science of Health and Development (SHD) Advisory Group was launched in March 2012 to contribute to strategic decision-making for this initiative, in consultation with SHD leadership. This group will convene on a regular basis to brainstorm and prioritize content-related and programmatic components of the initiative. Members of the group include Center-affiliated faculty members Takao Hensch, Ph.D., Charles A. Nelson, III, Ph.D., David R. Williams, Ph.D., and Michelle A. Williams, Sc.D.