We together with Sabine Gabrysch (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) received a research grant from the German Science Foundation (DFG) to the amount of € 416 100 for our interdisciplinary research proposal “How do prenatal and postnatal circumstances interact in shaping health? An interdisciplinary approach using quasi-experiments”. This research project will combine medicine/epidemiology with an econometric-statistical approach and investigate the implications of so-called Predictive Adaptive Responses (PARs) on human health.
During the prenatal stage, the fetal body adapts to its environmental circumstances in ways that help it prepare for “predicted” postnatal circumstances. Depending on whether the actually encountered postnatal environment indeed matches to the circumstances the fetus has been programmed for, it is expected that such adaptations (PARs) may be beneficial or maladaptive, but this has hardly been studied in humans yet. We develop a framework for studying such effects and rigorously test this in a series of studies on specific prenatal/postnatal interactions.
We will do so using observational data by combining natural experiments that lead to quasi-random variation in prenatal circumstances with natural experiments that lead to quasi-random variation in postnatal circumstances. We will conduct several studies to demonstrate whether and how prenatal/postnatal interactions shape human health, and to accordingly further refine the framework.