Laura Stroud, PhD

Laura Stroud, PhD, is an associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and The Miriam Hospital. Her broad research interests include physiological responses to stress, biobehavioral mechanisms in nicotine dependence and sex differences in depression. Stroud currently has two lines of research: the first focuses on the effects of maternal smoking during pregnancy on physiological (adrenocortical) responses to stress in adolescents and infants; the second focuses on sex differences in physiological responses to stress and depression over puberty.

Her research focuses on neuroendocrine and neurobehavioral stress response (dys)regulation over development and as a mechanism underlying the intergenerational transmission of affective and addictive disorders. Her work focuses on risk for two key disorders: a) depression and b) smoking/nicotine dependence and two critical periods of development: a) transition from middle childhood to adolescence, and b) transition from the fetal to the neonatal periods. Within adolescence, she is investigating dysregulation of the stress response as a mechanism underlying the emergence of gender differences in depression over adolescence. In particular, she has a strong interest in biological sensitivity to social rejection as a vulnerability marker for depression. Within the fetal/neonatal period, she is examining effects of maternal smoking and depression during pregnancy on fetal and infant neurobehavior and stress response. Stroud has also begun to investigate biological pathways linking maternal smoking/depression with offspring neurobehavior, with a focus on placental neuroendocrine regulation.

Brown Faculty Page

Current Active Grants

Maternal Smoking, Fetal Behavior and Infant Withdrawal

The BAM BAM (Behavior and Mood in Babies and Mothers) Study

Although Maternal Smoking During Pregnancy (MSDP) has been linked to long-term neurobehavioral deficits in older offspring, relatively little attention has focused on the effects of MSDP on neurobehavioral deficits during the fetal and newborn periods. One key unanswered question is whether exposure to prenatal smoking induces neurobehavioral symptoms of withdrawal/abstinence in newborns. In this study, we are characterizing signs of abstinence and neurobehavior in infants and fetuses exposed and unexposed to MSDP. Specifically, the Behavior and Mood in Babies and Mothers (BAM BAM) study is an intensive, short-term, longitudinal study of signs of abstinence and neurobehavior during the fetal and newborn periods in continuously exposed and unexposed offspring. Results may lead to targeted intervention with newborns, education for parents to improve interactions with exposed newborns, and, potentially, early identification of high-risk infants and novel intervention and prevention efforts for pregnant smokers.

Principal Investigator: Laura Stroud, PhD

Co-Investigators: Raymond Niaura, PhD; George Papandonatos, PhD; Barry Lester, PhD; Amy Salisbury, PhD

Funding Agency: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Dates: 2005 - 2010

Maternal Depression, Placental HPA Regulation and Fetal-Neonatal Stress Response

The BAMBI (Behavior and Mood in Mothers, Behavior in Infants) Study

Exposure to maternal depression during pregnancy is common and associated with adverse medical and behavioral outcomes in infants. However, little is known about mechanisms underlying early adverse effects. This information is critical for early identification and intervention efforts with high-risk infants. This study is an intensive, longitudinal investigation of maternal major depressive disorder (MDD), maternal-placental neuroendocrine dysregulation, and fetal/neonatal stress response and neurobehavior. Three groups of mothers and offspring will be identified: a) mothers with MDD during pregnancy (including MDD-only and MDD+anxiety disorder), b) mothers with a history of MDD who remain euthymic during pregnancy, and c) mothers with no history of or current psychiatric disorder (controls).

Neonatal assessment will involve cortisol and behavioral response to a neurobehavioral examination at 1-2 and 30 days; fetal assessment will include heart rate and behavioral response to vibroacoustic stimulus. Measures of maternal-placental neuroendocrine regulation will include maternal circadian cortisol, and expression of placental genes regulating stress response. Results may elucidate early markers of risk and help to delineate early pathways to later behavioral dysregulation. Early identification of high-risk fetuses and infants may also lead to education for parents to improve interactions with stressed newborns, and, potentially, novel therapeutic targets to protect fetuses from consequences of maternal depression.

Principal Investigator: Laura Stroud, PhD

Co-Investigators: James Padbury, MD; Amy Salisbury, PhD; Barry Lester, PhD; George Papandonatos, PhD; Thamara Davis, MD

Funding Agency: National Institute of Mental Health

Dates: 2007 - 2012

Maternal Smoking: Fetuses in Withdrawal?

Exposure to maternal smoking during pregnancy is linked to numerous adverse fetal and neonatal health outcomes as well as longer-term neurobehavioral deficits in children and adults. Relatively little attention, however, has focused on effects of maternal smoking on fetal and neonatal neurobehavior. One key unanswered question is whether exposure to maternal cycles of daytime smoking and overnight abstinence results in symptoms of withdrawal/abstinence in the fetus. To examine the possibility of a fetal withdrawal syndrome from exposure to maternal smoking, aims of this study are: a) to characterize differences in fetal behavior including signs of abstinence under conditions of maternal satiation (daytime ad libitim smoking) versus overnight abstinence, b) to characterize links between fetal neurobehavior/withdrawal and newborn neurobehavior/withdrawal and c) to examine the influence of second-hand smoke exposure on fetal and infant neurobehavior/withdrawal (exploratory aim).

Our group has pioneered the use of ultrasound technology to comprehensively evaluate fetal neurobehavior including signs of abstinence. In this study, we apply these techniques to examine the possibility of a fetal withdrawal process in offspring exposed to maternal smoking and second-hand smoke. This study is the first to examine effects of maternal smoking on fetal withdrawal. Results may lead to critical advances in understanding mechanisms underlying long-term effects of maternal smoking exposure. Results also have important clinical and public health implications, including early identification and targeted intervention efforts to protect at-risk offspring, and novel intervention efforts to help pregnant smokers quit.

Principal Investigator: Laura Stroud, PhD

Co-Investigators: Raymond Niaura, PhD; Amy Salisbury, PhD

Funding Agency: Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute

Dates: 2007 - 2010

Stress Response and The Adolescent Transition

Although adolescence represents a critical period of brain plasticity as well as physical and social changes, fundamental knowledge regarding potential developmental shifts in stress response over the adolescent/pubertal transition is lacking. Adolescence also represents a critical period for gender intensification and solidifying of academic and social trajectories for girls and boys. However, basic research examining gender differences in physiological and affective response to academic and social stressors has not been conducted. In this study, we are investigating the influence of pubertal status and gender on physiological (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal and sympathetic adrenal medullary) and affective responses to laboratory stressors (academic and social) over the adolescent transition.

The proposed study will allow fundamental insights into the nature of stress response patterns over the adolescent transition, and will allow discovery of new models for characterizing stress response. Given evidence for continuity of functioning between adolescence and adulthood, elucidating fundamental shifts in stress response across this period of enormous social, academic, and biological change has the potential to identify and improve trajectories of adolescents at risk for poorer functioning. Finally, it is clear that the adolescent/pubertal transition represents a period of heightened vulnerability for girls. An understanding of factors leading to increased vulnerability for girls at this critical period may lead to improved adjustment and acquiring of productive roles that may begin a positive cycle across generations.

Principal Investigator: Laura Stroud, PhD

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

Dates: 2007 - 2010


(10 of over 40)

 Forcier, K., Stroud, L.R., Hitsman, B., Krishnamoorthy, J., Reiches, M., & Niaura, R. (2006). The effects of physical fitness on physiological reactivity to and recovery from acute psychological stressors: A meta-analysis. Health Psychology, 25, 723-739.

Stroud, L. R., Solomon, C., Shenassa, E., Niaura, R., Papandonatos, G. D., Lipsitt, L. P., LeWinn, K., & Buka, S. (2007). Long-term stability of maternal prenatal steroid hormones from the National Collaborative Perinatal Project: Still valid after all these years. Psycho-neuroendocrinology, 32, 140-150.

Battle, C. L. Zlotnick, C., Pearlstein, T., Miller, I.W., Howard, M., Salisbury, A. L. & Stroud, L. (2008). Depression and breastfeeding: Which postpartum patients take antidepressant medications? Depression and Anxiety, 25, 888-891.

Stroud, L. R., Foster, E., Handwerger, K., Papandonatos, G. D., Granger, D., Kivlighan, K., Niaura, R. (2009).Stress response and the adolescent transition: Performance versus peer rejection stress. Development and Psychopathology, 21, 47-68.

Stroud, L. R., Paster, R. L., Papandonatos, G., Niaura, R., Salisbury, A. L., Battle, C., Lagasse, L., & Lester,B. (2009). Maternal smoking during pregnancy and newborn neurobehavior: Effects at 10-27 days. Journal of Pediatrics, 154, 10-16.

Gilman, S. E., Rende, R., Boergers, J., Abrams, D. B., Buka, S. L., Clark, M. A., Colby, S. M., Hitsman, B.,Kazura, A. N., Lipsitt, L. P., Lloyd-Richardson, E. E., Rogers, M., Stanton, C. A., Stroud, L. R., & Niaura, R. S. (2009). Parental smoking and adolescent smoking initiation: An intergenerational perspective on tobacco control. Pediatrics, 123(2) e274-e281.

Stroud, L. R., Paster, R. L., Goodwin, M. S., Shenassa, E., Buka, S., Niaura, R., Rosenblith,

J. F., & Lipsitt, L.P. (2009). Maternal smoking during pregnancy and neonatal behavior: A

large-scale community study. Pediatrics, 123, e842-e848.

Magid, V., Colder, C., Stroud, L. R., Nichter, M., Nichter, M. (2009). Negative affect, stress, & smoking in college students: Unique associations independent of alcohol and marijuana use. Addictive Behaviors, 34(11): 973-5.

LeWinn, K. Z., Stroud, L. R., Molnar, B. E., Ware, J. H., Koenen, K. C., & Buka, S. L. (2009). Elevated maternal cortisol levels during pregnancy are associated with reduced childhood IQ. International Journal of Epidemiology. 38(6):1700-10.