Differential susceptibility in the making: Genetic moderators of maternal prenatal affect on stress reactivity and temperament in infants

Grant PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2016-0840

Contract no. 136/12.07.2017


Maternal stress during pregnancy has been consistently associated with atypical emotional responses in human infants, as well as subsequent emotional difficulties in children and adolescents. The long-term impact of maternal prenatal stress may involve programming effects (i.e., enduring disorganization of neuroendocrine systems resulting from exposure to stress during sensitive periods) on the developing hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal of the fetus. Recent evidence indicates that maternal stress in the last trimester of pregnancy is related to neonatal cortisol reactivity and temperament, and that genetic differences may moderate these relations. The objectives of the present project are: (1) to investigate the relations between maternal affect during the third trimester of pregnancy and infant stress reactivity and temperament; and (2) to examine, based on the differential susceptibility model, several candidate genetic moderators that may be involved in these relations. For the first time, experience sampling with mobile phones will be used to characterize both positive and negative maternal prenatal affect in daily life. Infant measures will include cortisol and behavioral responses to a vaccination procedure in the first postnatal day, and laboratory assessments of temperament at 6 months. By characterizing the "bright side" of maternal prenatal affect and identifying moderators that may decrease offspring susceptibility to prenatal maternal stress, this project will identify targets for future interventions designed to optimize the experience of pregnancy from a long-term neurodevelopmental perspective. Due to its integrative and innovative character, we believe that this project will have an impact in fundamental and translational research.



Andrei C. Miu, Ph.D. (PI)
Oana Benga, Ph.D.
Romana Vulturar, M.D., Ph.D.
Sorin Andreica, M.D., Ph.D.
Adina Chiș, Ph.D.
Laura Visu-Petra, Ph.D.
Ramona Moldovan, Ph.D.
Ioana Bunea, Ph.D. Student



Bunea, I. M., Szentágotai-Tătar, A., & Miu, A. C. (2017). Early life adversity and cortisol response to social stress: A meta-analysis. Translational Psychiatry, in press. [IF: 4.73]

Chiș, A., Vulturar, R., Andreica, S., Prodan, A., & Miu, A. C. (2017). Behavioral and cortisol responses to stress in newborn infants: Effects of mode of delivery. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 86, 203-208. [IF: 4.78]

Conference papers

Chiș, A., Vulturar, R., Andreica, S., Prodan, A. & Miu, A.C. Behavioral and cortisol responses to stress in newborn infants: Effects of mode of delivery - Zilele UMF "I.Hatieganu", 8 decembrie 2017.


​​​​​​​Miu, A. C. De ce stresul în copilărie are efecte negative pentru restul vieții? A 3-a Conferință HealthNow, București, 29 august 2017 [oral presentation]