HEALthy Brain and Child Development Study


The first few years of life is a period of exponential brain growth and development. It is not currently known how infant and childhood development is affected by early exposure to opioids. To address this question, the National Institutes of Health is working to better understand typical brain development, beginning in the prenatal period through early childhood, including variability in development and how it contributes to cognitive, behavioral, social, and emotional function. Knowledge of normative brain trajectories is critical to understanding how brain development may be affected by exposure to opioids and other substances (e.g., alcohol, tobacco, cannabis), stressors, trauma and other significant environmental influences. The HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) Study will establish a large cohort of pregnant women from regions of the country significantly affected by the opioid crisis, and follow them and their children for at least 10 years. Research from this cohort will help understand normative childhood brain development as well as the long-term impact of pre- and postnatal opioid and other drug and adverse environmental exposures.


  • The study will collect data on pregnancy and fetal measures; infant and early childhood structural and functional brain imaging; anthropometrics; medical history; family history; biospecimens; and data on social, emotional, and cognitive development.
  • This knowledge will be critical to help predict and prevent some of the known impacts of pre- and postnatal exposure to certain drugs or adverse environments, including risk for future substance use, mental disorders, and other behavioral and developmental problems.

Supporting NIH Institutes and Centers



Dr. Michelle Freund

This page last reviewed on May 8, 2019