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Effects of biological and environmental factors and psychosocial intervention on early neurodevelopmental pathways in vulnerable children


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are common and impairing neurodevelopmental conditions. The early identification of infants at risk for developing ASD and/or ADHD and the use of pre-emptive interventions to limit the emergence and impact of symptoms are important preventative strategies to reduce the burden of these disorders. The main objective of this Young Investigator project is to establish the first prospective longitudinal study of infants at familial risk for ASD and ADHD in a low-and-middle-income country (LMIC) context (Brazil). The study will investigate how familial risk for ASD and ADHD affect early neurodevelopmental trajectories in infants living in a LMIC, how alterations in early neurodevelopmental trajectories relate to ASD and ADHD outcomes in toddlerhood, and whether biological (inflammation, stress-response system function) and environmental (poverty, early-life trauma, maternal distress) risk-factors mediate the negative effects of familial ASD and ADHD risk on early neurodevelopmental pathways. The study will also test whether a pre-emptive psychosocial intervention can reduce the negative impact of familial ASD/ADHD risk and biological and environmental risk-factors on infants' neurodevelopmental trajectories. The results of this project will make a significant contribution to the existing literature from high income countries (HICs) on how familial risk for ASD and ADHD affect early child development and the generalisability of previous findings to infants growing up in disadvantaged environments. The findings will also provide crucial new evidence for the effectiveness of pre-emptive psychosocial intervention for vulnerable infants in LMICs, which is currently a global priority. (AU)

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