ISGlobal researcher Mònica Guxens has received the Walter A. Rosenblith New Investigator Award for her proposal “Air Pollution, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Brain Imaging Amongst Children in Europe—the APACHE Project”. This award, which will fund the APACHE project for the next three years, is given annually by the Health Effects Institute (HEI), a non-profit corporation based in Boston (USA) which was set up to research the health effects of air pollution.
Awarded for the first time in 1999, the Rosenblith New Investigator Award is named for the scientist Walter A. Rosenblith, who died in 2002. Its purpose is to bring new and creative investigators into the field of research on the health effects of air pollution.
Monica Guxens is a physician who received her doctorate in public health and is also specialised in preventive medicine. She is an Assistant Research Professor at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health and in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology of the Erasmus University Medical Center-Sophia Children's Hospital in Rotterdam.
Her research focuses on the role of environmental factors, including air pollution, on children's development. The objective of the APACHE study is to evaluate whether prenatal air pollution exposure is associated with the development of autism spectrum disorders and whether prenatal and postnatal air pollution exposure is associated with changes in brain structure and function in children. In both cases, the study will also evaluate different windows of exposure to establish when mothers and children are most vulnerable to the effects of air pollution.
One of the hypotheses to be evaluated in this study is that exposure to air pollution during pregnancy may be related to an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders, but not with an increased risk of autistic traits (subclinical deficits that do not meet the formal criteria for the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder). This hypothesis is based on the findings of previous studies.