Professor of Clinical Developmental Psychobiology in Psychiatry and Pediatrics
Associate Director, Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology
Developmental Neuroscience

1051 Riverside Drive, Unit 40
New York, NY 10032

Faculty Profile


Research Summary

Our general research program focuses on the effects of the early environment on fetal and infant brain/behavior development. Within the fetal/infant perinatal research effort in the Division of Developmental Neuroscience at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the Sackler Institute of Developmental Psychobiology we have active collaborations within the Departments of Psychiatry, Obstetrics, Pediatrics, Behavioral Medicine and Public Health focused on investigations of the role of early experience in shaping fetal/infant physiology, neurophysiology and behavior. Our team investigates the complex interplay of sleep physiology, patterns of brain activity, attention, and autonomic control and how they relate to risk for neurodevelopmental disorders. A major emphasis of our work is to determine how early life experiences, often associated with pre or perinatal exposures, shape the developing brain and later neurodevelopmental outcome.

An NIH MERIT Award, the Sackler Institute, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation  and other NIH funding support  current research on the effects of maternally mediated exposures on the developing fetus, early learning and memory, sensory development, brain regulation during sleep and assessment of risk for neurological disorders.  Our lab is currently involved in four large cohort studies with local, national and international colleagues in NYC, South Africa, the Northern plains and the United Kingdom investigating early markers and trajectories of neurodevelopmental disorders aimed at early detection and ultimately the development of timely interventions.

Select Publications
  1. Williams IA, Fifer WP, Andrews H. Fetal Growth and Neurodevelopmental Outcome in Congenital Heart Disease. Pediatr Cardiol. 2015 Aug;36(6):1135-44. Epub 2015 Mar 10. PubMed PMID: 25753684.
  2. Noble KG, Engelhardt LE, Brito NH, Mack LJ, Nail EJ, Angal J, Barr R, Fifer WP, Elliott AJ; PASS Network. Socioeconomic disparities in neurocognitive development in the first two years of life. Dev Psychobiol. 2015 Jul;57(5):535-51. Epub 2015 Mar 30. PubMed PMID: 25828052.
  3. Siddiqui S, Wilpers A, Myers M, Nugent JD, Fifer WP, Williams IA. Autonomic regulation in fetuses with congenital heart disease. Early Hum Dev. 2015 Mar;91(3):195-8. Epub 2015 Feb 4. PubMed PMID: 25662702.
  4. Duncan JR, Garland M, Stark RI, Myers MM, Fifer WP, Mokler DJ, Kinney HC. Prenatal nicotine exposure selectively affects nicotinic receptor expression in primary and associative visual cortices of the fetal baboon. Brain Pathol. 2015 Mar;25(2):171-81. Epub 2014 Aug 19. PubMed PMID: 24903536; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4257900.
  5. Yilmaz B, Narayan HK, Wilpers A, Wiess C, Fifer WP, Williams IA. Electrocardiographic intervals in foetuses with CHD. Cardiol Young. 2015 Jan 20:1-6. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 25599806.
  6. Lucchini M, Signorini MG, Fifer WP, Sahni R. Multi-parametric heart rate analysis in premature babies exposed to sudden infant death syndrome. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2014; 6389-92. PubMed PMID: 25571458.
  • OP1128900 (Fifer) 5/1/2015- 9/30/2016Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

    Developmental Trajectories of Fetal Heart Rate Variability: A Prenatal Marker of Early Brain Development

    The major goal is to provide early identification of risk of abnormal, cognitive, neurobehavioral and autonomic development.

  • U01 HD55155 (Fifer) 09/01/2006 – 07/31/2016NICHD

    Prenatal Alcohol in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Stillbirth (PASS) Network

    Co-operative Agreement for directing the Physiological Assessment Center for the fetal alcohol network.

  • R37 HD32774 (Fifer) 04/01/2006 – 03/30/2016NICHD

    Perinatal Assessment of At-Risk Populations

    This is an investigation of underlying mechanisms and early assessment of risk for Sudden Infant Death.

  • P50 (MH090966) (Gingrich and Weissman) 07/01/10 – 06/30/15NIMH

    Serotonergic Modulation of Brain Development: Genetic and Pharmacologic Influences

    Principal Investigators: Gingrich, J and Weissman, M.

    To investigate the role of serotonin (5HT) signaling in human and mouse brain development by examining the effects of 5HT transporter gene variants as well as the effects of in utero exposure to serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

  • R13 (MH HD58769) (Fifer and Shair) 10/01/00 – 09/30/15NICHD

    International Society for Developmental Psychobiology Student Travel Grant

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