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Investment in early childhood neurobehavioral health may be seen as an investment in our future society. Early childhood represents one of our greatest opportunities to influence an individual’s trajectory of mental health across the lifespan. This is because the first 1000 days following conception is the period of most rapid brain growth and development. As such, it is a period of extreme vulnerability to environmental risks that can disrupt brain development, including malnutrition, stress, toxin exposure, and inflammation. At the same time, positive support for brain development through appropriate nutrition, reduction of stress, and provision of social environmental support lays the foundation for long-term mental health.
The biology of this opportunity is only now being worked out. It is becoming clear that these early life events have lifelong consequences through one of two (not mutually exclusive) fundamental mechanisms: 1) construction of brain circuitry that underlie fundamental and complex behaviors has critical periods early in life, and 2) epigenetic modifications of genes involved in neural plasticity and drive brain function are particularly active in this time period.
However, in order to best leverage the great plasticity of the early human brain, tools that assess its integrity and function are key. According to Dr. Michael K. Georgieff, an internationally recognized expert on the effects of nutrition on the developing brain, this is not a trivial effort given that babies are behaviorally quite primitive.
“A major research focus at the University of Minnesota has been to develop new techniques to assess the developing brain, particularly its function, at the youngest possible time. The ability to more precisely define brain function before the age of three years allows for earlier and more targeted interventions to be instituted with the likelihood that those interventions will have greater long-term impact.”
Join us on February 6 when Dr. Georgieff will present evidence that supports the concept of the developmental origins of adult mental health and the opportunities for helping our children attain their full neurodevelopmental potential.
Michael K. Georgieff is the Martin Lenz Harrison Land Grant Professor of Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Child Psychology at the University of Minnesota. He also is Executive Vice Chair of Pediatrics, head of the Division of Neonatology, and Director of the University’s Center for Neurobehavioral Development.
Georgieff received his MD at Washington University and his pediatric/neonatology training at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Minnesota. His career in this area has spanned 30 years and includes investigations of brain function in humans and preclinical models. His clinical research expertise is in neonatal nutrition and neurodevelopmental outcomes.
An internationally recognized expert on the effects of nutrition on the developing brain, he is cofounder and director of the University’s Center for Neurobehavioral Development for which he oversees an interdisciplinary research team of 40 faculty members that comprises 12 departments and five schools. Georgieff also serves as an advisor to the National Institutes of Health, UNICEF, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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Headliners takes place monthly, October through May (no event in January), at the Continuing Education and Conference Center on the University's Saint Paul campus. Dates for the 2019−20 season are October 10, November 7, December 5, February 6, March 5, April 2, and May 7. Individual event tickets are $20.
Headliners tickets are nonrefundable. If you have questions, please call the Information Center at 612-624-4000.
See complete list of Headliners events.