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Your Environment. Your Health.

Neurodevelopmental Diseases

Program Description

The prenatal period and childhood are critical times for brain development, or neurodevelopment. Environmental health scientists in this field are studying how early exposure to pesticides, metals such as lead, and other contaminants may lead to neurodevelopmental problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder.

What Is NIEHS Doing?

NIEHS-supported researchers examine how exposure to lead, mercury, estrogen, pesticides, and air pollution, among other environmental contaminants, might affect a child’s neurodevelopment, learning, and behavior.

For example, researchers found that chronic exposure to air pollution and to a chemical found in residential pest control products were linked to delays in brain development.

Other grantees found that air pollution may play a role in autism. Research has also shown that mothers who took folic acid during the first month of pregnancy had a lower risk of having a child with autism.

Grantees rely on a variety of techniques for their research. Some grantees use imaging tools to see how the brain changes in response to environmental contaminants. Others study chemical mixtures to better characterize environmental exposures. Grantees also investigate important periods during brain development when exposures could be most harmful.

By identifying associations between environmental exposures and neurodevelopmental effects, NIEHS research can inform disease and disability prevention efforts — and ultimately improve human health.

Program Leads

Cindy Lawler
Cindy Lawler, Ph.D.
Chief, Genes, Environment, and Health Branch
Tel 984-287-3280
P.O. Box 12233
Mail Drop K3-15
Durham, N.C. 27709
Jonathan Hollander
Jonathan A. Hollander, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
Tel 984-287-3269
P.O. Box 12233
Mail Drop K3-15
Durham, N.C. 27709
Kimberly Ann Gray
Kimberly Gray, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
Tel 984-287-3262
530 Davis Dr
530 Davis Drive (Keystone Bldg)
Durham, NC 27713
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