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An Innovative Precision Medicine Approach to Improve Maternal & Fetal Out

Promoting Healthy Brain Project

Project Overview

Promoting Healthy Brain Project: An Innovative Precision Medicine Approach to Improve Maternal & Fetal Outcomes
Supported by:  Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital & Stanley Manne Research Institute
Investigator Team: Lauren Wakschlag, Elizabeth Norton, Amelie Petitclerc, William Grobman, Bradley Marino, Judith Moskowitz, Darius Tandon, Michael Bass, Nabil Alshurafa, John Rogers, Roozbeh Ghaffari 
Scientific Director: Sheila Krogh-Jespersen


Supported by the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital & Stanley Manne Research Institute, the “Promoting Healthy Brain Project” (PHBP) examines the impact of prenatal stress reduction on maternal well-being and early life neurodevelopment. The overarching goal of the PHBP is to improve child neurodevelopmental trajectories by reducing maternal stress during the pregnancy. This will ultimately be tested in a randomized controlled trial with 200 mothers and their babies, from the second trimester of pregnancy through the first 12 months of life.

The overall PHBP brings together a large, multidisciplinary team of 10 investigators with a unifying objective: Discover whether improving gestational biology improves early neurodevelopmental health.In order to meet the study objective, our project team is developing and conducting pilot testing within three distinct project areas, which will be integrated for the larger randomized trial, “Wellness for 2”, launching in summer 2018.

Project Areas

  1. Stress Model Validation & Health Sensing Technology Integration: Wireless wearable health sensors will measure maternal heart rate, and short smartphone surveys will measure when mothers are experiencing stress throughout their typical day. Our personalized algorithms will use maternal heart rate and survey data to detect when stress reduction support is needed.
  2. Customized Prenatal Stress Reduction Intervention: Mothers will receive a 1-on-1 stress reduction intervention, the Mothers and Babies course, in addition to their usual prenatal care. When we detect a mother needs additional stress reduction support, we will send booster stress reduction messages and intervention support to her smartphone.
  3. Examining Neurodevelopmental Trajectories: Using state of the art neurodevelopmental assessment methods, we will observe infant neurodevelopmental trajectories from birth, at 6 months, and 12 months.

In the Media

This project was recently featured in the Northwestern Medical Magazine. One section, titled “Refining Standards of Maternal-Fetal Care: Novel research is changing the way we approach healthcare for mothers and their babies”, features several important research projects currently being performed at Northwestern that share the common goal of parent and fetal health, including the Promoting Healthy Brain Project. Click here to read the article.