Vera Gross Lecture by Dr. Janina Galler

Life-Span and Intergenerational Legacy of Early Childhood Malnutrition on Brain and Behavior: the 48+ Year Barbados Nutrition Study

Tuesday, November 23, 2021
12:00 pm EST

Click to Register now for this public event!

The Ludmer Centre for Neuroinformatics & Mental Health (McGill University) is pleased and proud to present the inaugural Vera Gross Lecture, given by Dr. Janina R. Galler, Harvard Medical School (USA).

Dr. Galler will speak on her multidisciplinary research collaboration on Life-Span and Intergenerational Legacy of Early Childhood Malnutrition on Brain and Behavior: the 48+ Year Barbados Nutrition Study.

This public lecture will be delivered virtually on Tuesday, November 23, 2021, at 12 p.m. ET.

The Vera Gross Lecture is free and open to all, registration is required.

ABSTRACT: Malnutrition impacts up to 34% of all children under five years of age world-wide. Stunting and inadequate nutrition severely restrict the developmental potential of these children. However, long-term studies of the effects of early childhood malnutrition are limited. The Barbados Nutrition Study is a unique 48+ year longitudinal study that has documented the effects of early malnutrition on mental health over the life span and across generations. The study examines the effects of malnutrition limited to the first year of life on brain, behavioral and cognitive outcomes of adult survivors and their children. A major finding is the increased prevalence of attentional problems following malnutrition that continues into middle and late adulthood, which is present even after adjusting for childhood socioeconomic conditions and related early conditions. This finding is closely associated with epigenetic changes and is also present in the next generation, impacting offspring who were never malnourished themselves. We have recently documented a 4-fold increase in mild cognitive impairment in adult survivors of early malnutrition at 45-51 years of age, further highlighting the long-term impact of child malnutrition and supporting the urgent need to identify early markers of these brain and behavioral changes.

BIO: Janina R. Galler, MD, is Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a Senior Researcher, Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, MassGeneral Hospital for Children, Boston, MA. She is a summa cum laude graduate of the Sophie Newcomb College of Tulane University, and she received her MD from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Galler completed her residency training in Psychiatry and Child Psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston and the Boston University School of Medicine.

Dr. Galler’s long-standing research interest has centered on malnutrition in early life and its long-term effects on mental health and brain development over the lifespan and across generations. She is the founding Director of the Barbados Nutrition Study, a 48+ year longitudinal study that has followed the children with histories of malnutrition, their offspring and grandchildren. She also conducts multidisciplinary research in animal models of prenatal and intergenerational malnutrition. Exciting new facets of her research involves the study of epigenetics. Epigenetic mechanisms offer an intriguing explanation of our earlier findings and provide a powerful new tool to identify potential intergenerational mechanisms of early life malnutrition and associated behavioral and mental outcomes conditions. Dr. Galler also collaborates closely with Professor Pedro Valdes and the Cuban Neuroscience Center in the identification of early brain biomarkers of child malnutrition that predict adverse mental health outcomes in middle and late adulthood.

Dr. Galler is the recipient of numerous awards and grants. She was the first Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation Public Policy Fellow, and she served as a US Senate Fellow and chairperson of the Eunice K. Shriver National Institutes of Child Health and Development (NICHD) Advisory Council. She was awarded the Blanche F. Ittleson Award for Research in Child Psychiatry from the American Psychiatric Association, the Irving B. Harris Award from the Society of Behavioral Pediatrics, the Newcomb Centennial Award from Tulane University. She is also the first woman to have been awarded the international Leon Eisenberg Award for leadership in mental health, developmental disabilities and research ethics by Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Galler’s work has been supported by 32 years of continuous NIH support, and she is the author of over 180 peer-reviewed publications and two books on Nutrition and Behavior.

Made possible by a generous contribution from Mortimer and Vera Gross

Hosted in conjunction with the Global Brain Consortium 2021 Annual Meeting

The Ludmer Centre for Neuroinformatics & Mental Health, based on the promising potentials of big-data research, envisages a future where mental illnesses, cognitive disorders, and learning disabilities are significantly reduced through preventive strategies and their diagnoses, based on biological metrics, lead to more effective, individually-tailored treatment approaches.