Dr. Yoko Nomura is a newly tenured Professor in the Department of Psychology (in behavioral neurosciences) Queens College, CUNY, and Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She is the Principal Investigator of an NIH-funded, population based, longitudinal research study in developmental psychopathology, known as the Stress in Pregnancy (SIP) Study. The study focuses on the gestational period (during pregnancy), which is a critical, but often overlooked, stage for optimal child development.
The SIP Study is partnered with New York Hospital Queens and Mount Sinai Hospital in the past three years. It has recruited over 600 pregnant women, who are followed throughout their pregnancy and as their young children develop over the first 18 months. This has enabled the Study to uncover the interplay between child genetic susceptibility and psychosocial stress that mothers experience during pregnancy. The study has focused on a variety of outcomes in infancy and early childhood, including early signs of psychopathology, suboptimal neurobehavioral development, HPA axis functioning, and gene expression. A portion of the SIP Study is currently following a cohort of women exposed to Superstorm Sandy and the related devastation at different stages of pregnancy, providing the study with the rare opportunity to investigate the influence of variable timing of maternal stress on a potential underlying mechanism of fetal programming, via changes in gene expression in-utero.
A follow-up study, entitled “The Infants of Superstorm Sandy: The Epigenetic and Developmental Impact of Natural Disaster” has recently been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (R01MH102729-01: PI Nomura) to evaluate neurobehavioral development of the participating offspring between 2 and 4 years of age. The overreaching goals of the study are to help understand the impact of disaster-induced stress in pregnancy, chart the course of mental and metabolic disorders from in-utero through birth and early childhood, and further understand the critical periods of development during pregnancy on a molecular level. Identification of potential markers for suboptimal development during pregnancy and early childhood can help determine whether intervention could preempt the development of disease and/or impairment that might otherwise emerge later in life.