International Young Investigator Award 2020: Acta Paediatrica awards behavioral epigenetic research

Since 2006, the Acta Paediatrica Foundation has awarded the title of Young Investigator to a promising young researcher who was the lead author of a paper published in the Journal during that period. I am delighted to be the recipient of the International Young Investigator Award 2020 for the paper Pain‐related increase in serotonin transporter gene methylation associates with emotional regulation in 4.5‐year‐old preterm‐born children.


In this paper, we reported on the role played by epigenetic regulation mechanisms in the long-term consequences of early pain-related stress exposures on preterm-born children's emotional development. This was a contribution of the Preterm Behavioral Epigenetic longitudinal research project that was made possible by a fruitful collaboration between researchers, clinicians, and biologists of the Scientific Institute IRCCS E. Medea, Bosisio Parini, Italy, and of the Foundation IRCCS Ca' Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Milan, Italy.

This award witnesses the relevance of developmental psychobiology research and its implications for the advancement of psychological and pediatric science and clinical practice. I share this award with all the colleagues that made the project possible; many of them are co-authors of the paper. But many others contributed during the years. It was also thanks to my leading role in this project that I was able to develop many international connections that contributed to improve my skills and knowledge as well as to get fun by engaging in innovative and rewarding collaborations.


[...] These include being a member of the steering committee of the Separation and Closeness Experiences in Neonatal Environment group, which is a multidisciplinary network that is involved in planning, and carrying out, research into this important area of infant development. [...]

This award further supports the need to investigate on the epigenetic vestiges of early stressful conditions in human development. In the meantime, at the IRCCS Mondino Foundation, Pavia, Italy, we are analyzing the first data obtained from the MOM-COPE study, a longitudinal cohort project that aims to understand how the collective trauma of COVID-19 pandemic may affect mother-infant health and well-being during the first 1000 days. Our hope is that by following this psychobiological path new directions may be highlighted to improve smarter care and prevention acts for promoting maternal health and infants' development, during and after these emergency times.

The award notice is available on Acta Paediatrica at this link.