Delineating the Contribution of Glucocorticoid Pathways to Stress-Related Social Disparities in Cognitive Child Development

Children’s cognitive development is influenced by early experiences. Children raised in low socioeconomic status (SES) families are more likely to be exposed to chronic stress, reflecting demoted housing conditions, lower quality of parental and non-ˇparental care, higher rates of family conflict, parental stress, and other suboptimal conditions.

The overarching goal of the Jacobs Entwicklungsstudie is to elucidate some of the mechanisms that translate stress-related social disadvantage into differences in cognitive development in children, by assessing over time the effects of glucocorticoids on brain regions important to human cognitive function, particularly the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (PFC). We also aim to assess moderators at multiple levels that may buffer or modify the effects of stress and its mediators, including parental nurturance and (epi)genetic factors. Understanding these moderating factors is important as they may provide markers of risk versus resilience to effects of stress as well as identify targets for prevention.

This study is funded by a research grant from the Jacobs Foundation for Prof. Dr. Yee Lee Shing and Prof. Dr. Christine Heim (Charité Berlin). For more information, please visit