ISGlobal | Barcelona Institute for GlobalHealth


Initiatives: Urban Planning, Environment and Health

Research Programmes: Childhood & Environment

  • Duration:
  • Coordinator:
    Jordi Sunyer Deu (ISGlobal)
  • Funded by:
    Fundació La Marató de TV3

Environment interaction on atention deficit an hyperactivity disorders and autism spectrum disorder in general population birth cohorts

Theoretical framework / Primary objective:

Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have a genetic base, but only the interaction between genes and environmental influences can explain their variation and changes in frequency. The stage in which the brain is most vulnerable to environmental exposures is the beginning of life. The objective is to identify environmental exposures at the beginning of life, genetic variants and the interaction of genes and environmental influences associated with AHDH and ASD in the general population.


The study will be based on 2,600 children from five newborn cohorts in Spain recruited at week 12 of pregnancy. AHDH is measured based on criteria of the DSM-IV scale for this disorder, and ASD will be measured based on the CARS test. In addition, a general neuropsychological test (McCarthy) and a scale that assesses social competences (California) will be administered. Exposures during pregnancy and the first few years of life that have already been assessed are diet (for example, PUFA levels) persistent organic contaminants (e.g. PCBS, DDE), air pollution, maternal infection during pregnancy and paternal-filial relationship and paternal stress. We will measure the children’s urine metal levels and PBDEs and PFOs in the placentas and the children’s blood serum. Genetic variants will be analysed using Illumina or qPCR. Genes will be selected based on their function in the modulation of the exposures under study.

Expected results:

The results will contribute to the development of environmental strategies for children’s protection aimed at preventing poor school performance and social behaviour problems.