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The Center for Epigenetic Research in Child Health & Brain Development (CERCH) facilitates ground-breaking research into the origins of chronic disease and neuropsychiatric disorders, highlighting the role of parental health and early-life experience in shaping child development. This cross-disciplinary venture at the University of Maryland School of Medicine is supported by the departments of Pharmacology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Obstetrics, and directed by Dr. Tracy Bale, a leading expert in the epigenetics of neurodevelopment.

Founded to encourage translational collaborations and guide basic scientific study, CERCH serves as a resource for administrative support, education, and scientific consultation for investigators and trainees. Our mission is to create the framework necessary for large institutional research grants that spur innovative research promoting child health interventions for at-risk populations in the Baltimore community.

Leadership at CERCH was recruited to build the engagement and structure essential for funding successful research on epigenetic programming of child health. The expertise of our team is organized in order to:

  1. identify new grant mechanisms and the appropriate CERCH members
  2. facilitate the development of collaborative research and proposal Aims
  3. provide guidance and administrative support to complete the application
  4. counsel on data collection and analyses methods
  5. collaborate on statistical analyses and developing bioinformatics pipelines.



DNA and Human Head Graphic

Research Emphasis

Research at CERCH emphasizes the impact of adversity and environmental perturbations during unique periods of vulnerability, including maternal and paternal preconception, gestation, early-life development, and maturation from child to adult. We highlight the cyclical nature by which parental life experiences, particularly those related to mental health, alter germ cell programming; thereby, influencing gestation and fetal development, and ultimately child health and brain maturation.

The consequence on the child’s mental health can be carried through to adulthood, especially if further insult is experienced during development, leading us back to the next generation of parental adversity and perpetuating the cycle. CERCH supports research at each stage, with the goal of bettering our understanding of the epigenetic mechanisms that program offspring disease risk and resiliency, and developing novel interventions that will improve health outcomes from pre-conception to adulthood.