New College Research Innovation Grant Program Partnership with Johnson & Johnson Consumer and Personal Products Worldwide

May 23, 2006

(University Park, Pa) — A collaboration between Johnson & Johnson Consumer and Personal Products Worldwide and the College of Health and Human Development has created a new opportunity to fund research projects that are in their early stages of development. The gifts created a total of $200,000 to support research projects that were identified from a competitive review process of grant proposals. The outcome is that Johnson & Johnson Consumer and Personal Products Worldwide and the College of Health and Human Development have awarded “research innovation” grants to four investigative groups of faculty in the College of Health and Human Development together with their collaborators in other colleges. Each of the grants examines significant aspects of the relationships between health behaviors and quality of life. This new research program will “provide a timely boost in support to new and potentially significant lines of research in the College” said Karl M. Newell, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education.

The first group of investigators will examine “Autonomic and Behavioral Stress Responses in Low Birth Weight Preterm Infants.” The group is comprised of Kim Kopenhaver Haidet, (Nursing), Charles Palmer (Neonatology, College of Medicine) and Elizabeth J. Susman (Biobehavioral Health). The study will examine early biological and behavioral correlates of stress in preterm infants in an effort to determine if individual differences in preterm infants’ stress responses will allow healthcare providers to predict which infants are more susceptible to the effects of exposure to stress.

The second group, comprised of Laura Cousino Klein (Biobehavioral Health), David M. Almeida (Human Development and Family Studies) and Ann C. Crouter (Human Development and Family Studies), will examine the effects of a particular biomarker on the health consequences of daily social stress among couples. The biomarker, Dehydroepiandrosterone-Sulfate (DHEA-S), can be found in saliva and is thought to have anti-aging and anti-stress effects in the body. It is thought the DHEA-S can counteract the damaging effects of cortisol, a hormone that can be triggered by stress. The study will examine how men and women differ in their physiological and emotional responses to stress — particularly daily, interpersonal stressors — and how relationship quality may moderate these effects.

The third study will examine whether a low methionine diet can slow aging processes in the human body and lead to better maintenance of health in old age. The investigators are Roger McCarter (Biobehavioral Health), Gerald E. McClearn (Biobehavioral Health) and J.T. Stout (Center for Developmental and Health Genetics). The goal is to determine if the many health benefits of caloric restriction may be realized using a simpler dietary modification and implemented in adult animals. If successful, the project may have significant practical impact for improving the health and functional abilities of older men and women.

The fourth and final study, investigated by Cynthia A. Stifter (Human Development and Family Studies), Leann Birch (Human Development and Family Studies) and Ian Paul (Pediatrics, College of Medicine), will examine whether the ways in which mothers soothe their infants can promote infant self-regulation of emotion, perhaps leading to longer sleep duration and lower rates of childhood obesity.

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Editors: For additional information, please contact the College of Health and Human Development Office of College Relations at (814) 865-3831 or healthhd@psu.edu.