Environmental Effects on Cognitive Development (2013-2014)

Environmental conditions can cause changes in gene expression through a process called epigenetics. Such changes in gene expression can increase one’s risk of disease and can even be passed on to one’s offspring. For example, pregnant women’s exposure to environmental tobacco smoke can cause changes in the DNA of their children, leading to an increased risk for the development of ADHD.

To combat this issue, this project team created a science primer to be distributed to populations most affected by smoke exposure. Team members compiled research on epigenetics and its role in ADHD development after exposure to smoke in utero, modeled a primer after established science infographics and distributed the primer at local health clinics. Team members then designed a randomized-controlled intervention to field-test the infographic with pregnant women and family members in Durham health clinics.

The impact of the infographic was assessed through questionnaires distributed to target populations. Questions for the team’s focus group included: What on the pamphlet would make you most likely to avoid smoke while pregnant (or if you become pregnant)? How would you summarize the message of the pamphlet in your own words? How well did we explain the benefits of avoiding smoke? How did the image on the front of the pamphlet make you feel?

The team gained insights into the importance of translating research to a level accessible by the general public and into the many factors, both artistic and educational, that contribute to the development of a successful science primer.



Team Outcomes

Susan Murphy, Rochelle Schwartz-Bloom, Paul Bloom, Kathryn Pollack, Community Outreach and Translation Core: Community Education About Smoke Exposure (CEASE) ($456,971 grant awarded from the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Services, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2013)

Help Babies Avoid Smoke (infographic)

Help Babies Avoid Smoke (poster by Chenchen Feng, Rachel James, Christine Nuñez)

This Team in the News

Environmental Effects on Cognitive Development

Team Leaders

  • Rochelle Bloom, School of Medicine-Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
  • Craig Roberts, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
  • Adriana Vidal, School of Medicine-Surgery: Urology

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Chenchen Feng, Biology (BS)
  • Rachel James
  • Christine Nunez, Psychology (AB)
  • Anya Pierson, Neuroscience (BS)