Mother and Baby

About The Strong Starts Research Program 

Strong Starts

Research Program

Understand how adverse early-life conditions impact emotional and cognitive functioning in children

Influence of pillar 1 on pillar 2: Identify child outcomes  that could be used to evaluate interventions

Influence of pillar 2 on pillar 1:  

Understand mechanisms that explain how interventions alter child neurodevelopment 

Investigate the impact of early interventions on brain development in children 

Pillar 1: Foundations of social and emotional development 

The objective of pillar 1 is to elucidate how prenatal and early postnatal environmental conditions shape the foundations of social and emotional development in infancy and early childhood. I have taken a programmatic approach to developing this pillar, starting with observational studies to establish links between perinatal adversity and offspring emotional and behavioural development, then by conducting mechanistic studies to understand these links. The goal of this pillar is to understand how core socioemotional functions are altered by early adverse conditions. This research aims to increase the precision of outcome measures used to evaluate the impact of early interventions on infant/child socioemotional development. Therefore, results from studies conducted under Research Pillar 1 directly influence the design of studies conducted under Research Pillar 2.

Pillar 1 Featured Research 

Transacting Brains: Testing an Actor- Partner Model of Frontal EEG Activity in Mother-infant Dyads.
Krzeczkowski, J.E., Schmidt, L.A., Van Lieshout, R.J., (2020). Development and Psychopathology​.

Maternal pregnancy diet quality is directly associated with autonomic nervous system function in 6-month-old offspring.

Krzeczkowski, J.E., Boylan, K., Arbuckle, T.E., Poliakova, N., Muckle, G., Seguin, J., Favotto, L.A., et.al. (2020). Journal of Nutrition 

Maternal metabolic complications in pregnancy and offspring behavior problems at 2 years of age.

Krzeczkowski, J.E., Lau, J., Ftizpatrick, J., Tamana, S., Smithson, L., de Souza, R., Kozyrskyj, A.L., et  al. (2019).  Maternal and Child Health Journal.

Neurodevelopment in 3-4 year-old children exposed to maternal hyperglycemia or adiposity in utero. 

Krzeczkowski, J.E., Boylan, K., Arbuckle, T.E., Dodds, L., Muckle, G., Fraser, W., Favotto, L.A., et.al. (2018).  Early Human Development.

Frontal EEG alpha asymmetry among extremely low birth weight survivors in the fourth decade of life: Links to antenatal corticosteroid exposure and contemporaneous behavioral problems

Krzeczkowski, J.E., Schmidt, L.A., Savoy, C., Van Lieshout, R.J. (2018).  Clinical Neurophysiology.

Prenatal influences on the development and stability of personality

Krzeczkowski, J.E., Van Lieshout, R.J. (2018).  New Ideas in Psychology

Pillar 2: Interventions to optimize brain development

Based on what I learned from my  research conducted under Pillar 1, in Pillar 2, I focus on examining if early interventions can optimize early brain development to get infants and children off to the strongest possible start  in life. I led the world’s first study that examined if treating maternal postpartum depression (PPD) with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could improve neurophysiological and behavioural markers of infant emotion regulation. Following maternal CBT treatment, infants exhibited adaptive improvements across all indices of emotion regulation and no longer differed on these indices from the healthy control infants of non-depressed mothers. I also aimed to explore if our CBT treatment program could adaptively improve how mothers transmit regulatory support to their infants in real-time.  In the healthy dyads, at multiple study visits across the first year of life, increases in maternal HRV influenced subsequent decreases in infant heart rate variability (HRV) measured at the next second, an effect that strengthened (i.e., improved) throughout the stress task. In the dyads affected by maternal PPD, this same effect was observed, but only after the mothers received CBT treatment. This research was not only the first to reveal a putative mechanism through which mothers transmit regulatory support to their stressed child in real-time but showed that these processes could be altered via intervention. 

Pillar 2 Featured Research

Follow the leader: Maternal transmission of physiological regulatory support to distressed infants in real-time.
Krzeczkowski, J.E., Schmidt, LA., Ferro, M., Van Lieshout, R.J., (in press) Journal of Psychopathology and Clinical Science 

Changes in Infant Emotion Regulation Following Maternal Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Postpartum Depression.
Krzeczkowski J.E., Schmidt, LA., Van Lieshout, R.J. (2021). Depression & Anxiety

Maternal and Infant Performance on the Face-to-Face Still-Face Task Following Maternal Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Postpartum Depression
Ntow, K.,
Krzeczkowski, J.E., Amani, B., Savoy, C.A., Schmidt, L.A., Van Lieshout, R.J., (2021). Journal of Affective Disorders

Featured Presentation

Watch Dr. Krzeczkowski's presentation Lifespan Speaker Series Presentation. This webinar presents novel research on how cost-effect treatments that are accepted and preferred by mothers/birthing parents not only benefit maternal health, but improve brain development and emotion regulation in their infants