The purpose of the FinnBrain research project is to study the combined influence of environmental and genetic factors on the development of a child. Through the understanding of these influential factors, steps can be taken to promote both the family’s wellbeing as well as health for children and adolescents.

It is known, that the initial exposure of environmental factors starts already during prenatal period and early infancy and that these factors can have an impact on health related issues in childhood as well as adulthood. Less is known about the mechanisms connecting the environment and health. Knowing these mechanisms is crucial for the development of efficient methods to both prevent and treat illnesses. Our research group is primarily interested in studying the factors leading to stress regulation and its development. We are also looking for factors which maintain health and protect from illnesses.

We recruit volunteer pregnant women and their partners to participate in the research during their first ultrasonography appointment at maternity health clinics in Turku. For the 2010 pilot research we recruited about 200 families. The actual research began at the end of 2011 and by 2015 we already had more than 4 000 families as voluntary participants from Turku and Åland islands hospital districts in our study.

The study of the parents, the child and the family’s living environment begins at prenatal period. At the focus of the study are the child and the child’s development as well as the relationship between the parent and the child. The follow-up of the children will continue until they reach adulthood. The follow-up is carried out with the help of questionnaires and public registers to collect information relating to the child’s overall development, such as living environment, life events, temperament, sleep and speech development. Furthermore, smaller adjunct test map the child’s brain structure and function, the connections between stress and infections and the functions of oxytocin, vasopressin and stress hormones. The mapping is carried out through blood samples, neuropsychological study and brain imaging.

PI: Dr. Hasse Karlsson
Co-PI: Dr. Linnea Karlsson
University: University of Turku, Turku, Finnland

Website: FinnBrain Website