Fall 2021 - HSCI 462 D100

Seminar in Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (3)

Class Number: 2145

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    BLU 9021, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Pablo Nepomnaschy
    1 778 782-8493
  • Prerequisites:

    HSCI 216 with a minimum grade of C-.



The field of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) investigates the influence of negative (stressful) early life environments on developmental trajectories and health. This course explores the evolutionary origins of the links between early exposures on developmental outcomes and the use of said knowledge in clinical practice and interventions. Students who have taken HSCI 471 under this topic in Summer 2015 may not take this course for further credit.



A number of adult negative health outcomes ranging from adult heart disease to mental health

problems may result from exposures to challenges experienced during early life. This course will

explore the origins and the most recent developments in the field of Developmental Origins of

Health and Disease (DOHaD). DOHaD studies the links between early exposures, negative

developmental outcomes and the mediating mechanisms. Some of those links are believed to

have originally been evolved adaptations. Yet, when expressed in novel environments, different

from those in which the trait originally evolved, some of those traits may become harmful. How

should practitioners deal with those biological traits? The answer to this question is now being

debated in multiple forums. Obtaining the answers will require the full integration and

collaboration of diverse fields including evolution, ecology, child development, epidemiology,

medicine and public health. The goal of this seminar is to introduce the field of DOHaD to

students and explore the most relevant contributions to answering said question.


This course includes six main activities: readings, summaries, quizzes, presentations,

discussions and a final report on a topic of choice. Minimum reading materials corresponding to

each discussion session are indicated in the syllabus. Students MUST read assigned materials

and produce a one page summary before each corresponding meeting. Students will help lead

one or two discussions on topics of their choosing. The goal of a discussion leader is to

stimulate participation from the other students. Minimum readings on subjects of the students’

interest can be expanded by accessing the additional materials provided in the course’s

webpage (in CANVAS).



Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Understand the ecologic and evolutionary principles that underlie human development
  • Analyze basic interactions between the social and physical environment and their impact on developmental outcomes
  • Consider the differences between adaptations, constraints and pathologies
  • Discuss potential evolutionary origins of some human traits currently considered pathologies
  • Evaluate the impact that past developmental adaptations may have on health and wellbeing in modern environments

Core Competencies for the BA and BSc Programs addressed in this course include:

  • Core Concepts in Population and Public Health - primary
  • Strategies for Preventing Disease and Promoting Health - reinforcing
  • Measuring Health and Disease - reinforcing
  • Systems and critical thinking - reinforcing


Upon completion of the course students are expected to have honed their ability to comprehend scientific articles, improved their ability to analyze scientific evidence critically and develop their own arguments. Students will learn to compile annotated bibliographies, advance their academic writing abilities and work in collaboration with their peers. In terms of specific scientific knowledge students taking this course will learn about the role of phylogeny, ontogeny and ecology (both social and physical) has on human development, health and wellbeing.


  • Participation in class 20%
  • Half page reading summaries 15%
  • Oral presentation 25%
  • Weekly quizzes 15%
  • Final Term Paper 25%


There are no exams in this course. Students are expected to participate actively throughout the term.



REQUIRED TEXTS: There is no textbook for this course as it is based entirely on journal articles and book chapters. All required materials will be made available digitally in CANVAS.

You are expected to get and deliver all materials through CANVAS. Please, be alert to announcements.


(THIS IS A DRAFT- The instructor may make minor changes to the syllabus before and during the term. Changes will be announced in class and through Canvas)

Developmental Origins of Health and Disease

Lecture 1

A historical perspective


Wadhwa, PD, Buss, C, Etringer, S, Swanson, JM. 2009. Developmental origins of health and

disease: Brief history of the approach and current focus on epigenetic mechanisms. Sem

Reprod Med 27:358-368.

Hertzmann, C. 2012. Putting the concept of biological embedding in historical perspective. PNAS

2012 109 (Supplement 2) 17160-17167.


Barker DJ. 1990. The fetal and infant origins of adult disease. British Medical Journal 301:1111-


Barker DJP. 1995. Fetal origins of coronary heart disease. 171-174 p.

Barker DJP, Godfrey KM, Gluckman PD, Harding JE, Owens JA, and Robinson JS. 1993. Fetal

nutrition and cardiovascular disease in adult life. The Lancet 341(8850):938-941.

Lecture 2

Types of exposures: Cyclical, unique, population wide, individual, expected and unexpected

Quiz on the readings’ topics

Student presentations


Kuzawa, CW 2005 The fetal origins of developmental plasticity: Are fetal cues reliable predictors

of future nutritional environments? Amer J Hum Biol 17(1) 5-21

Lupien, S, McEwen, BS, Gunnar, MR, Heim, C. 2009. Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on

the brain, behaviour and cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10:434-445.

Chen, E, Boyce, WT, Matthews, KA. 2002. Socioeconomic differences in children’s health: How

and why do these relationships change with age? Psychological Bulletin 128:298-329.


Yehuda, R, Engel, SM, Brand, SR, Seckl, J, Marcus, SM, Berkowitz, GS. 2005. Transgenerational

effects of posttraumatic stress disorder in babies of mothers exposed to the World Trade

Center attacks during pregnancy. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 90:4115–4118.

Ouellet-Morin, I, Boivin, M, Dionne, G, Lupien, SJ, Arsenault, L, Barr, RG, Perusse, D, Tremblay,

  1. 2008. Variations in heritability of cortisol reactivity to stress as a function of early

familial adversity among 19-month-old twins. Arch Gen Psychiatry 65:211-218.

Webb, AR, Heller, Howard T., Benson, CB., and Lahav Amir 2015 Mother’s voice and heartbeat

sounds elicit auditory plasticity in the human brain before full gestation; PNAS published

ahead of print February 23, 2015, doi:10.1073/pnas.1414924112

Teaching Dossier Pablo Nepomnaschy

Lecture 3.

(Mal)Adaptations, constraints and pathologies

Quiz on the readings’ topics

Student presentations


Ellison, PT and G. Jasienska 2007. Constraint, Pathology, and Adaptation: How can we tell them

apart? American Journal of Human Biology 19:622-630.

Flinn, MV, Ponzi, D, Nepomnaschy, PA, Noone, R. 2013. Ontogeny of stress reactivity: Phenotypic

flexibility, trade-offs, and pathology. In: Laviola, G, Macri, S, editors. (Mal)adaptive

aspects of developmental stress. Berlin: Springer Press. 23:29-38.


Crespi B (2011) The evolutionary biology of child health Proc Biol Sci. 22; 278(1711): 1441–1449.

Gluckman, P. D., & Hanson, M. A. (2004). Living with the past: evolution, development, and patterns of

disease. Science, 305(5691), 1733-1736.

Pluess, M, Belsky, J. 2011. Prenatal programming of postnatal plasticity? Dev Psychopathol 23(1):29-38

Lea, A.J., Altmann, J., Alberts, S.C., and Tung, J. 2015. Developmental constraints in a wild

primate. American Naturalist: doi:10.1086/681016


Lecture 4 Mechanisms I

Quiz on the readings’ topics

Student presentations


Jablonka, E., & Lamb, M. J. (2005). Evolution in four dimensions: Genetic, epigenetic, behavioral,

and symbolic variation in the history of life. MIT press. Chapter 4, pp. 113-154.

Meaney, MJ. 2010. Epigenetics and the biological definition of gene × environment interactions.

Child Development 81:41–79


Kim-Cohen, J., & Gold, A. L. (2009). Measured gene–environment interactions and mechanisms

promoting resilient development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18(3), 138-


Hochberg, Z, Feil, R, Constancia, M, Fraga, M, Junien, C, Carel, JC, Boileau, P, Le Bouc, Y, Deal, CL,

Lillycrop, K, Scharfmann, R, Sheppard, A, Skinner, M, Szyf, M, Waterland, RA, Waxman,

DJ, Whitelaw, E, Ong, K, Albertsson-Wikland, K. 2010. Child health, developmental

plasticity, and epigenetic programming. Endoc Rev 32:159-224.

Dobbs, David. (Sept. 14, 2010). The depression map: genes, culture, serotonin, and a side of

pathogens. Wired. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/09/the-depression-mapgenes-


Teaching Dossier Pablo Nepomnaschy

Lecture 5 Mechanisms II

Quiz on the readings’ topics

Student presentations


LaFreniere, P., & MacDonald, K. (2013). A post-genomic view of behavioral development and

adaptation to the environment. Developmental Review, 33, 89–109.

Gohir W, Ratcliffe EM, Sloboda DM 2015. Of the bugs that shape us: maternal obesity, the gut

microbiome, and long-term disease risk. Pediatr Res. 77(1-2):196-204


Trasler JM 2009 Epigenetics in spermatogenesis Mol Cell Endocrinol. 306(1-2):33-6.

Weaver, ICG, Cervoni, N, Champagne, FA, D'Alessio, AC, Sharma, S, Seckl, JR, Dymov, S, Szyf, M,

Meaney, MJ. 2004. Epigenetic programming by maternal behavior. Nature Neurosci


Guo, JJU, Ma, DKK, Mo, H, Ball, MP, Jang, MH, Bonaguidi, MA, Balazer, JA, Eaves, HL, Xie, B,

Ford, E, Zhang, K, Ming, GL, Gao, Y, Song, HJ. 2011. Neuronal activity modifies the DNA

methylation landscape in the adult brain. Nature Neurosci 14:1345-1351.

Reik, W. 2007. Stability and flexibility of epigenetic gene regulation in mammalian development.

Nature 447:425–432

Boyce, W. Thomas, and Michael S. Kobor. 2015. Development and the epigenome: the

‘synapse’of gene–environment interplay. Developmental science 18.1:1-23.

McGowan, P. O. (2012). Epigenetic clues to the biological embedding of early life adversity.

Biological psychiatry, 72(1), 4-5.

Wadhwa, Pathik D., et al. 2009. Developmental origins of health and disease: brief history of the

approach and current focus on epigenetic mechanisms. Seminars in reproductive

medicine. Vol. 27. No. 5. NIH Public Access.


Lecture 6

Stress physiology

Quiz on the readings’ topics

Student presentations


Hostinar, C. E., Sullivan, R. M., & Gunnar, M. R. (2014). Psychobiological Mechanisms Underlying

the Social Buffering of the Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenocortical Axis: A Review of

Animal Models and Human Studies Across Development. Psychological Bulletin.


Anacker, C., O'Donnell, K. J., & Meaney, M. J. (2014). Early life adversity and the epigenetic

programming of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function. Dialogues in clinical

neuroscience, 16(3), 321.


Andrews, J., Ali, N., & Pruessner, J. C. (2013). Reflections on the interaction of psychogenic stress

systems in humans: The stress coherence/compensation model.

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 38(7):947-61.

Seckl, JR, Meaney, MJ. 2004. Glucocorticoid programming. Ann New York Acad Sci 1032:63-84

Teaching Dossier Pablo Nepomnaschy

Van den Bergh, BRH, Marcoen, A. 2004. High antenatal maternal anxiety is related to ADHD

symptoms, externalising problems, and anxiety in 8-and 9-year-olds. Child Development


Laplante, DP, Barr, RG, Brunet, A, Galbaud du Fort, G, Meaney, MJ, Saucier, J-F, Zelazo, PR, King,

  1. 2004. Stress during pregnancy affects general intellectual and leanguage functioning

in human toddlers. Pediatr Res 56:400-410.

Entringer, S, Kumsta, R, Hellhammer, DH, Wadha, PD, Wust, S. 2009. Prenatal exposure to

maternal psychosocial stress and HPA axis regulation in young adults. Horm Behav


Gutteling, BM, de Weerth, C, Buitelaar, JK. 2005. Prenatal stress and children’s cortisol reaction

to the first day of school. Psychoneuroendocrinology 30:541-549.

Lecture 7 (June 3)


Quiz on the readings’ topics

Student presentations


Ellison, PT. 2010. Fetal programming and fetal psychology. Infant and Child Development 19:6-


Crespi, B. 2008. Genomic imprinting in the development and evolution of psychotic spectrum

conditions. Biological Reviews 83:441-493.


Glover, V. 2011. Prenatal stress and the origins of psychopathology: An evolutionary

perspective. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 52(4):356-367.

Weinstock, M. 2005. The potential infuence of maternal stress hormones on development and

mental health of the offspring. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 19:296-308.

Weinstock, M. 2008. The long-term behavioural consequences of prenatal stress. Neurosci

Biobehav Rev 32:1073-1086.

Del Giudice, M., & Ellis, B. J. (in press). Evolutionary foundations of developmental psychopathology. In

  1. Cicchetti (Ed.), Developmental psychopathology, Vol. 1: Theory and method (3rd ed.). New

York: Wiley & Sons. (pp. 36-58)

Lecture 8. Outcomes III

Energy Metabolism

Quiz on the readings’ topics

Student presentations


Kuzawa CW., Chuganic HT., , Grossman LI., Lipoviche L., Muzikd O., Hofg PR., Wildman DE.,

Sherwood Ch C,. Leonard WR, and Lange N. 2014. Metabolic costs and evolutionary

implications of human brain development. PNAS 111(36):13010-13015.

Begum, G, Stevens, A, Bolton Smith, E, Connor, K, Challis, JRG, Bloomfield, F, White, A. 2012.

Epigenetic changes in fetal hypothalamic energy regulating pathways are associated

with maternal undernutrition and twinning. FASEB Journal 26:1694-1703.


Thayer, ZM, Feranil, AB, Kuzawa, CW. 2012. Maternal cortisol disproportionately impacts fetal

growth in male offspring: Evidence from the Philippines. Am J Hum Biol 24:1-4.

Zhang, S, Rattanatray, L, LacLaughlin, SM, Cropley, JE, Suter, CM, Molloy, L, Kleemann, D,

Walker, SK, Muhlmausler, BS, Morrison, JL, McMillen, IC. 2010. Peri-conceptional

Teaching Dossier Pablo Nepomnaschy

undernutrition in normal and overweight ewes leads to increased adrenal growth and

epigenetic changes in adrenal IGF2/H19 gene in offspring. FASEB Journal 24:2772-2782.

Wust, S, Entringer, S, Federenko, IS, Schlotz, W, Hellhammer, DH. 2005. Birth weight is

associated with salivary cortisol responses to psychosocial stress in adult life.

Psychoneuroendocrinology 30:591-598.

Kuzawa, CW. 2007. Developmental Origins of Life History: Growth, Productivity, and

Reproduction. Am J Hum Biol 19: 654-6611-4

Lecture 9

Immune Function

Quiz on the readings’ topics

Student presentations


Ziol-Guest KM, Duncan GJ. Kalil A, Boyce W. T 2012 Early childhood poverty, immune-mediated

disease processes, and adult productivity PNAS 2012 109 (Supplement 2) 17289-17293;

McDade, T. W. 2012. Early environments and the ecology of inflammation. Proceedings of the

National Academy of Sciences 109(2):17281-17288.


Rook, G. A., Lowry, C. A., & Raison, C. L. (2013). Microbial ‘Old Friends’, immunoregulation and

stress resilience. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, (1), 46-64.

Plottel CS. and Blaser MJ 2011 Microbiome and Malignancy Cell Host Microbe. 10(4): 324–335

Koren O, Goodrich JK, Cullender TC, Spor A, Laitinen K, Kling Bäckhed, Gonzalez A, Werner JJ.,

Angenent LT, Knight R., Bäckhed F, Isolauri F, Salminen S, Ley RE 2012 Host remodeling

of the gut microbiome and metabolic changes during pregnancy, Cell 150(3): 470–480


Lecture 10

Social Adversity

Quiz on the readings’ topics

Student presentations


Lupien, SJ, King, S, Meaney, MJ, McEwen, BS. 2001. Can poverty get under your skin? Basal

cortisol levels and cognitive function in children from low and high socioeconomic status.

Dev Psychopathol 13:653-676.

Champagne, F. A. (2010). Early Adversity and Developmental Outcomes: Interaction Between

Genetics, Epigenetics, and Social Experiences Across the Life Span. Perspectives on

Psychological Science, 5(5), 564-574.


Cole, SW. 2009. Social regulation of human gene expression. Curr, Dire, Psychol Sci 18:132–137.

Slavich, G. M., & Cole, S. W. (2013). The Emerging Field of Human Social Genomics. Clinical

Psychological Science, 1(3), 331-348.

Adler NE, and Stewart J. 2010. Health disparities across the lifespan: Meaning, methods, and

mechanisms. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1186(1):5-23.

Boyce, W. T., Obradović, J., Bush, N. R., Stamperdahl, J., Kim, Y. S., & Adler, N. (2012). Social

stratification, classroom climate, and the behavioral adaptation of kindergarten children.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(Supplement 2), 17168-17173.

Braveman P, Egerter S, and Williams DR. 2011. The Social Determinants of Health: Coming of Age.

Annual Review of Public Health 32(1):381-398.

Teaching Dossier Pablo Nepomnaschy

Lecture 11

Inequities: A Social Trap


Quiz on the readings’ topics

Student presentations


McEwen, B. S. (2012). Brain on stress: How the social environment gets under the skin. Proceedings of

the National Academy of Sciences, 109(Supplement 2), 17180-17185.

Curley, JP, Jensen, CL, Mashoodh, R, Champagne, FA. 2011. Social influences on neurobiology

and behavior: Epigenetic effects during development. Psychoneuroendocrinology 36:352–371.


Boyce, W. T., Den Besten, P. K., Stamperdahl, J., Zhan, L., Jiang, Y., Adler, N. E., & Featherstone,

  1. D. (2010). Social inequalities in childhood dental caries: the convergent roles of stress,

bacteria and disadvantage. Social science & medicine, 71(9), 1644-1652.

McGowan, P. O., & Szyf, M. (2010). The epigenetics of social adversity in early life: implications

for mental health outcomes. Neurobiology of disease, 39(1), 66-72.

Entringer, S, Buss, C, Kumsta, R, Hellhammer, DH, Wadha, PD, Wust, S. 2009. Prenatal

psychocosial stress exposure is associated with subsequent working memory

performance in young women. Behavioral Neuroscience 123:886-893.

Bradley, RH, Corwyn, RF. 2002. Socioeconomic status and child development. Annual Review of

Pscyhology 53:371-399.

Lecture 12

A way out? DOHaD, Public Health and Social Development

Quiz on the readings’ topics

Student presentations


Shonkoff JP. (2012) Leveraging the biology of adversity to address the roots of disparities in

health and development PNAS 109 (Supplement 2) 17302-17307

Smith, GD (2011) Epidemiology, epigenetics and the ‘Gloomy Prospect’: embracing randomness in

population health research and practice Int. J. Epidemiol. 40 (3): 537-562.

Lecture 13. Overall discussion and conclusions


REQUIRED READINGS: Please see "Materials" - There is no textbook for this course as it is based entirely on journal articles and book chapters. All required materials will be made available digitally in CANVAS.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.