Neuroscience & Education Lab Research
The Neuroscience and Education Lab (NEL) is currently concentrating its efforts on the Family Life Project, an initiative investigating the effects of environmental exposures in non-urban contexts on family health functioning and child health and development.
The Family Life Project
Beginning in 2003, the Family Life Project (FLP) cohort consists of a sample of 1,292 children and their primary caregivers followed from birth in predominantly low-income and rural U.S. counties in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. A specific focus of the FLP has been the prospective investigation of associations between early-life stress—characterized by the physical and psychosocial characteristics of the home—and neurodevelopment, specifically in the area of self-regulation. Additional areas of focus include child language development, school achievement, risk for psychopathology, and physical and mental health.
In 2016, the FLP was selected as 1 of 83 pediatric cohorts to join a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) research initiative called the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program. The primary goal of ECHO is to examine how environmental exposures—physical, chemical, biological, social, behavioral, natural, and built environments—influence child health and development. ECHO was designed to work with existing longitudinal pediatric cohorts—like the FLP—to pool data from diverse populations across the United States so researchers can better explore how the places we live, the relationships we have, and the things we do impact our overall wellbeing.
ECHO cohorts are made up of children of all ages and pregnant women, and more than 50,000 children from diverse backgrounds were initially enrolled. In 2018, the FLP—among 72 other initial ECHO cohorts—transitioned to the second phase of the ECHO Program. During this phase, each participating cohort is implementing a standardized data collection protocol among its participants. This guarantees that not only will ECHO pool all cohorts’ historical data, but that all participating cohorts will collect the same data moving forward for researchers to use to answer different research questions about child health and development.
Learn more about the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes Program.