Developmental Adaptations, Stress, and Health (DASH) Collaborative

Mission Statement


Developmental Adaptations, Stress, and Health (DASH) is a network of faculty at the University of Utah who collaborate in research and graduate training focused on understanding how childhood experiences, and particularly levels of stress and support in and around the family, get “under the skin” to effect durable changes in biological systems involved in physical and psychological development. From a developmental programming perspective, these changes are not random; instead altered biological systems function to regulate development toward strategies that are adaptive under certain conditions. That is, biological embedding of psychosocial stress and support is a central mechanism through which the developing child becomes matched to current and expected future environments. DASH faculty study developmental adaptations to stress and their consequences for health and disease. Our central goal is to map the processes and mechanisms through which childhood experiences influence adaptive and maladaptive neural, physiological, and behavioral outcomes.

This developmental programming perspective is interdisciplinary and integrates across diverse areas of knowledge. Specifically, DASH faculty have expertise in:

  1. Evolutionary models of development such as life history theory and differential susceptibility;
  2. Assessment of psychosocial stress and support in and around the family (e.g., childhood unpredictability, child maltreatment, attachment security, observations of parental sensitivity);
  3. Assessment of genetic factors in development (e.g., gene × environment interactions, polygenic risk scoring);
  4. Biological systems and processes (e.g., genome-wide DNA methylation, placental methylation of the glucocorticoid receptor, autonomic and neuroendocrine stress physiology); and
  5. Phenotypic development (e.g., language and executive functioning abilities, self-injurious behavior, changes in risky behavior or depression over time).

Using cutting-edge methodologies, technology, and statistical modeling, DASH faculty work collaboratively to conduct research and provide graduate training across these theoretical and empirical domains. The following DASH faculty are planning to accept graduate students for the 2017-18 academic year: Daniel E. Adkins, Elisabeth Conradt, Sheila E. Crowell, Lisa M. Diamond, Bruce J. Ellis, and K. Lee Raby. We look forward to a great cohort.