Self-regulatory abilities are a key determinant of risk-taking behavior. Competent regulatory functioning allows individuals to control impulses, manage arousal and uncertainty, and delay short-term gratification in favor of longer-term goals. Conversely, poor self-regulation is a risk factor for negative outcomes including substance abuse and mental health problems. Physiologically, self-regulation involves a complex interaction between the autonomic and central nervous systems, which govern physiological arousal and voluntary control of arousal, respectively. The interactive process underlying self-regulation is evident early in life, even before birth;further, it is highly sensitive to the developmental environment. The goal of the proposed research is to investigate how early life socioeconomic adversity affects the process of self-regulatory development. The candidate's prior research has focused on risky decision-making in adolescence. However, adolescent self-regulation reflects a lifetime of interaction between behavior, biology and social context. To understand individual differences in self-regulation, it is necessary to focus earlier in the life course. The proposed award will allow the candidate to examine the foundations of self-regulation in early life. Training objectives include gaining expertise in: 1) choosing and evaluating measures of socioeconomic status (SES);2) fetal neurobehavioral and child neurocognitive development and their assessment;3) the neurobiology of stress exposure;and 4) hierarchical and longitudinal data analysis. The proposed award is central to the candidate's long-term goal, which is to improve population health by identifying primary prevention strategies for negative health outcomes related to self-regulation, including mental health and substance abuse disorders. Training activities will include coursework, directed readings with mentors, hands-on instruction, and training in research ethics. The mentored research plan includes 3 studies and 3 research aims.
AIM 1 examines how maternal prenatal SES and chronic psychosocial stress shape trajectories of fetal self-regulatory development.
AIM 2 investigates whether SES at birth and chronic family stress predict central nervous system self-regulation in childhood;
and AIM 3 investigates whether measures of wear-and-tear due to stress help to elucidate the relationship between SES and self-regulation. These results will inform an R01 application to study self-regulatory development in a socioeconomically diverse birth cohort.

Public Health Relevance

Self-regulatory functioning links early life experience to health across the lifespan. Poorer self-regulatory functioning is a risk factor for negative health outcomes including substance abuse, and internalizing and externalizing disorders. This project can inform interventions to improve self-regulatory functioning in vulnerable children;it can also shed light on biomarkers of risk and resilience that transcend socioeconomic status.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Type
Research Scientist Development Award - Research & Training (K01)
Project #
5K01DA027229-04
Application #
8433402
Study Section
Human Development Research Subcommittee (NIDA)
Program Officer
Sirocco, Karen
Project Start
2010-03-15
Project End
2015-02-28
Budget Start
2013-03-01
Budget End
2014-02-28
Support Year
4
Fiscal Year
2013
Total Cost
$140,000
Indirect Cost
$10,370
Name
Johns Hopkins University
Department
Pediatrics
Type
Schools of Medicine
DUNS #
001910777
City
Baltimore
State
MD
Country
United States
Zip Code
21218
Johnson, Sara B; Riley, Anne W; Granger, Douglas A et al. (2013) The science of early life toxic stress for pediatric practice and advocacy. Pediatrics 131:319-27