Suzanne King Laboratory

kinglab4Two main projects are currently underway in the laboratory of Suzanne King.

Project Ice Storm

Project Ice Storm has been ongoing since 1998 following the Quebec ice storm in January 1998. The project’s main aim is to investigate the effects of prenatal maternal stress on a broad range of developmental outcomes in the offspring, including cognitive, behavioral, motor, and physical.

This research  program includes three studies that use natural disasters as independent stressors with quasi-random assignment of exposure levels.

  1. Project Ice Storm follows women who were pregnant during the January 1998 Quebec ice storm, and their children who are turning 13 years of age in 2011
  2. The Iowa Flood Study follows a similar cohort exposed to floods in June 2008 with child assessments at age 4 years planned for 2012
  3. The QF2011 studies women exposed to the Queensland, Australia floods of January 2011 and their babies, scheduled for assessments at 16 months of age in 2012.

The Iowa Flood Study and QF2011 have the advantage of including pre-flood psychosocial data, and QF2011 adds biological samples from the births into the protocol.

Project Ice Storm has demonstrated significant and long-lasting effects of objective and subjective maternal stress on many areas of child development such as IQ, autistic-like symptoms, bilateral coordination, and brain structure. Many of these associations are moderated by either the timing of the ice storm in gestation, or the sex of the child.

For more information on Project Ice Storm, listen to the in-depth interview with Suzanne King on the French radio show Desautels (starts at 39’50).

Schizophrenia risk factors

A variety of data has been collected among psychiatric populations, investigating risk factors associated with schizophrenia, such as:

  • prenatal stress
  • obstetric complications
  • childhood trauma
  • premorbid cannabis use
  • certain genes

We are also exploring the association of expressed emotions (EE) with relapse of patient. EE is a psychological construct that combines critical comments and emotional over-involvement from a family member. The common interpretation of this finding has been that high EE parents stress the patients, thus exacerbating the schizophrenic symptoms to the point of disease relapse. Various studies conducted in the laboratory have published evidence supporting the role of EE as a reflection of the severity of the patient’s illness, rather than a reflection of a noxious family attitude.