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Ryan Van Lieshout

Ryan Van Lieshout

Canada Research Chair in the Perinatal Programming of Mental Disorders

Tier 2: 2017-04-01


Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences Profile |

Research involves

Applying observational and experimental methods to examine pre- and early post-natal stressors and their impact on brain development. 

Research relevance

This research will provide a better understanding of how psychiatric disorders develop, and will aid in the creation of early interventions to reduce the risk of these disorders across the lifespan.

Pre-Birth Interventions Promoting Life-Long Mental Health

Nearly half of all adults experience some form of mental illness at some point in their lives, and nearly half of those individuals are likely to have had mental disorders as children. Unfortunately, mental illness is often not diagnosed early, and few individuals actually receive treatment. 

Although the mediators in oemotion regulation and cognitive functioning develop in the womb, psychiatric research tends to examine risk factors occurring in childhood and later. Ryan van Lieshout, Canada Research Chair in the Perinatal Programming of Mental Disorders, is looking to change that. He's exploring perinatal risk factors and developing interventions aimed at these to promote life-long mental health.  

Dr. van Lieshout will use longitudinal observations of extremely low birth weight survivors, and experimental methodologies, to test the developmental origins of health and disease hypothesis.  

Prenatal interventions are especially important to combat mental illness since some of the most powerful predictors of later life mental illness occur during this time: preterm birth, poor maternal diet, and maternal mental illness. Interventions undertaken during pregnancy and/or the early postnatal period are also ideal because women are more likely to make positive changes compared to any other point in their life, and are in regular contact with healthcare professionals.  

This research will lead to the development of perinatal interventions designed to optimize early brain development, and aim to prevent psychiatric problems in offspring, helping them stay healthy throughout their lives.