Assistant Professor, Faculty of Applied Science, School of Nursing
Investigator, BC Children's Research Institute, Healthy Starts research theme
My research program builds upon and extends from my clinical nursing background as a pediatric clinical nurse specialist in acute pain, on my doctoral training in infant brain reactivity to acute pain using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), on my postdoctoral fellowship in Neuroscience, and on my work as an Associate Research Scientist in Developmental Neuroscience. Precisely, in the last years, I have led cutting-edge research examining the adverse effects of early-life stress, such as procedural pain, sucrose exposure and maternal separation on brain development using rodent models that closely mimic the neonatal intensive care context and clinical longitudinal cohort studies in children born very preterm. Many questions remain to be answered and this has informed my research program.
I am conducting novel translational research to advance the health and care of children born preterm. To accomplish this, I am leading a research program to address the impact of early-life adversity such as stress, pain, inflammation, treatments and maternal separation, on the developing brain of very preterm infants. It is essential to determine the mechanisms underlying the effects of early-stress exposure, such as pain-related changes, and to test novel mitigating treatments in both animal models and in human infants. My research is therefore partly conducted in rodent models to gain basic knowledge to better inform clinical studies in preterm infants. It examines the interactions between the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems during the critical period of early-life development, to prevent changes to the brain, and thereby improve outcomes. Identifying brain-protective interventions with which to manage neonatal procedural pain is essential and is also a focus of my research. Keeping this in mind will assure that these animal findings will be translated into clinical practice. Indeed, in order to improve clinical care of preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), much more research is needed to examine long-term effects of neonatal early exposure to stressful events and treatments on brain development and later outcomes, particularly in those born very preterm; this work is necessary so that we can understand the etiology of neurodevelopmental problems which occur at high rates in these vulnerable children.Publications