Neuroinflammation in the developing brain

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The brain undergoes an enormous development during the fetal period and during the early childhood years. This is also a period in which injuries and diseases of the nervous system can have grave consequences for the child's future health. This is also true for children exposed to harmful substances.

Research group leader:

Paediatric Neurologist

Ronny Wickström


The research of this group is focussing on three main areas:

  • Effects of perinatal nicotine exposure
  • Neonatal seizures
  • Infections of the central nervous system in children

The research group consists of three graduate students, one research nurse, and a large number of partners, both within and outside the institution. Projects range from clinical to basic epidemiological research methods to study the subcellular mechanisms. By combining different techniques, we want to investigate the effects of perinatal risk factors on children's health, but also determine underlying mechanisms.

The objective of the research

These studies aim to explain what happens when a foetus's brain is exposed to nicotine, or when a child's brain suffers from an infection. Nicotine in the foetus is probably the largest single avoidable factor for the future health of the child. The project also aims to clarify whether it is the nicotine itself that is harmful when smoked, or if it is mainly other harmful substances that are primarily responsible for the adverse effects on the child's brain. Encephalitis is an enigma in that the prevalence is not decreasing despite vaccination, only a change in the etiology occurs. This suggests a genetic predisposition for certain individuals to get a neurotropic involvement in otherwise banal viral infections. By aiming at finding ways, both genetical and physiological, to identify children at risk, we can henceforth identify these children and individualize therapy.