I am interested in how some children seem to thrive, while others succumb to the effects of early life stress. I study physiological risk and protective factors of early life stress exposure, to identify who may be particularly susceptible to the development of psychopathology. My research program includes the study of populations exposed to diverse forms of early life stress, disproportionately represented in populations of low socio-economic status including infants of mothers with depression and infants with prenatal substance exposure. Given that individual differences in how one responds physiologically to stress can inform the development of psychopathology, it is important to investigate the mechanisms that drive the development of this response. I therefore incorporate epigenetic methods in my work with the goal of uncovering how both adaptive and maladaptive responses to stress may form in infants and young children. Epigenetics is defined as the environmental control of genetic expression. Ultimately, I expect to uncover sensitive developmental periods and identify particularly pernicious forms of stress that, when targeted for preventative intervention, will mitigate the negative health effects of poverty-related early life stress.
Opportunities For Students
I am currently recruiting graduate students to work with me starting in the Fall of 2019. Students have the opportunity to learn more about the fields of behavioral epigenetics and psychobiology with the goal of carving their own research niche in these areas. We will also be collecting data with pregnant women living in poverty and, ultimately, their newborns. Students will learn about how chronic and episodic life stress experienced by the mother while pregnant may shape infant physiological susceptibilities to their early environment. Students will learn about epigenetic and physiological methods with pregnant women and with infants.
Students also have the opportunity to publish on existing data sets that include a sample of 1,388 children with prenatal substance exposure, many of whom have also experienced significant stressful events in their early lives.
Are you an undergraduate interested in joining the lab? If so review our newsletter and fill out an application which can be found at canlab.psych.utah.edu
B.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2003
Ph.D., University of Oregon, 2011
Conradt, E., Ablow, J.C., & Measelle, J. (2013). Poverty, problem behavior and promise: Differential susceptibility among infants reared in poverty. Psychological Science, 24, 235-242.
Conradt, E., Lester, B.M., Appleton, A.A., Armstrong, D.A., & Marsit, C.J. (2013). The roles of DNA methylation of NR3C1 and 11β-HSD2 and exposure to maternal mood disorder in utero on newborn neurobehavior. Epigenetics, 8, 1321-1329.
Conradt, E., Fisher, P., DeGarmo, D., Abar, B., Lester, B., LaGasse, L.L., Shankaran, S., Bada, H., Bauer, C.R., Whitaker, T.M., & Hammond, J.A. (2014). The contributions of early adverse experiences and trajectories of RSA on the development of neurobehavioral disinhibition among children with prenatal substance exposure. Development and Psychopathology, 26(4), 901-916.
Conradt, E., Abar, B., Lester, B.M., LaGasse, L.L., Shankaran, S., Bada, H., Bauer, C.R., Whitaker, T.M., & Hammond, J.A. (2014). Cortisol reactivity to social stress as a mediator of early adversity on risk and adaptive outcomes. Child Development, 85(6), 2279-2298.
Conradt, E., Lester, B., Hawes, K., Tronick, E., & Marsit. C. (in press). The contributions of maternal sensitivity and maternal depressive symptoms to epigenetic processes and neuroendocrine functioning. Child Development.
Conradt, E., *Fei, M., LaGasse, L., Tronick, E.Z., Guerin, D., Gorman, D., Marsit, C.J., & Lester. B. (in press). Prenatal predictors of infant self-regulation: The contributions of placental DNA methylation of NR3C1 and neuroendocrine activity. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.
Conradt, E., Beauchaine, T., Abar, B., Lester, B.M., Lagasse, L.L., Shankaran, S., Bada, H., Bauer, C.R., Whitaker, T.M., & Hammond, J.A. (in press). RSA reactivity at one month moderates the relation between early caregiving stress exposure and biobehavioral outcomes at age three. Psychophysiology.
My Current Graduate Students