Baby Stress Expert to Lead International Research Program

A University of British Columbia and BC Children’s
Hospital expert on infant stress and shaken baby syndrome
has been named director of an international research program
of the Canadian Institutes of Advanced Research (CIAR).

Ronald G. Barr, a professor of pediatrics in UBC’s
Faculty of Medicine and Canada Research Chair in Community
Child Health, will lead a research program called Experience-based
Brain and Biological Development, one of 10 CIAR programs
in Canada.

The appointment provides research team funding for an initial
term of five years.

“How we care for babies literally ‘gets under
their skin’ to influence their biological development
and healthy growth, including memory and language development,”
says Barr, who also directs the Centre for Community Child
Health Research at BC Children’s Hospital and the BC
Research Institute for Children’s & Women’s
Health . “Canada has some eminent early experience researchers
and is well-positioned to be an international leader in this
vital area of study.”

Barr will organize several international program meetings
per year, starting in 2004, to examine how biology and environment
interact to influence health, learning and behaviour from
infancy to adulthood.

Questions include how infant experiences such as crying and
nursing affect the baby’s genetic development and how
the relationship between mother and baby affects how children
handle stress. The group will also explore how interactions
between psychological and physiological events in a child’s
early life — such as first experiences at school — produce
long-term changes in hormones, the immune system and behaviour.

UBC’s Faculty of Medicine currently graduates 128 students
annually from a four-year program and attracts more than $90
million in research funding annually.

Established in 1995, the BC Research Institute for Children’s
& Women’s Health is dedicated to advancing the health
of women and children. It operates in partnership with UBC
and Children’s & Women’s Health Centre of

Founded in 1982, CIAR provides Canada’s university
researchers with a forum to develop ideas, building a knowledge
base to maintain Canada’s internationally competitive
position in knowledge creation.

Children’s & Women’s Health Centre of British
Columbia is an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority.
It is made up of British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital,
British Columbia’s Women’s Hospital and Health
Centre, and Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children and focuses
on patient care, education and research.