• Oberlander, Tim


    Co-head and Senior Scholar, Developmental Neurosciences & Child Health, CFRI
    Senior Clinician Scientist, CFRI
    Professor (Tenure), Division of Developmental Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, University of British Columbia
    Developmental Pediatrician, BC Children's Hospital and BC Women's Hospital & Health Centre
    Attending Physician, Complex Pain Service, BC Children's Hospital and BC Women's Hospital & Health Centre

    Degrees / Designations
    Primary Area of Research
    Developmental Neurosciences & Child Health
    Secondary Area(s) of Research
    Lab Phone
    Laura Beer
    Assistant Phone
    604-875-2000 ext. 5902
    Mailing Address
    BC Children's Hospital

    F605, 4480 Oak Street
    Vancouver, BC V6H 3V4

    Affiliate Websites
    Research Areas
    • Infant and childhood pain
    • Cardiovascular autonomic stress reactivity
    • Developmental effects of prenatal exposure to antidepressant medications and maternal mood

    I am a developmental pediatrician studying how early social experience (prenatal maternal mental illness and psychotropic medication exposure) influences biobehavioral development during childhood.

    Current Projects

    My work understanding early child development extends from molecular and genetic studies to behavioral outcomes in childhood that reflect the context in which the child lives. A common theme to my research is understanding the role played by the neurodevelopmental chemical serotonin (5HT) and related genetic factors in shaping relationships between early life experience and child development. I have three main areas of research:

    1. Developmental effects of prenatal psychotropic medication exposure:  This research includes studies of the developmental impact of prenatal exposure to psychotropic medications (i.e. selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor [SSRI] antidepressants, alcohol) and depressed maternal mood during pregnancy. Biobehavioral, pharmacologic and genetic factors that moderate fetal exposure are studied. Outcomes of interest are pain/stress reactivity, cognitive function (executive functions), and arousal and emotional regulation.
    2. Biobehavioral neural gradients in child development and community context: Understanding that child development differs across Vancouver neighbourhoods, this work, in collaboration with HELP studies relationships between stress biomarkers (cardiac autonomic, cortisol, salivary measures of serotonin-related proteins), social behavior and community context in school-aged children. This work allows us to study whether child behavior varies across high and low “behavioral risk”, both at a classroom level and how these patterns relate to emotional and academic achievement. 
    3. Pain and children with developmental disabilities:  This research seeks to understand pain in children with developmental disabilities. The current focus of this work is to improve pain assessment management among this population of children.

    Research Methodology

    • Fetal and neonatal behavioral state regulation
    • Non invasive stress measures (cardiac autonomic (RSA, PEP), salivary alpha-amylase & cortisol)
    • Measures of genetic and epigenetic-environment interactions reflecting the impact of early experience
    • Population-based linked child health data
    Selected Publications

    Petrie Thomas JH, Whitfield MF, Oberlander TF, Synnes AR, Grunau RE. Focused attention, heart rate deceleration, and cognitive development in preterm and full-term infants. Dev Psychobiol. 2012; 54(4):383-400. PMID: 22487941

    Weikum WM, Oberlander TF, Hensch TK, Werker JF. Prenatal exposure to antidepressants and depressed maternal mood alter trajectory of infant speech perception. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012 Oct 16;109 Suppl 2:17221-7. PMID: 23045665

    Pawluski JL, Brain U, Underhill CM, Hammond JL, Oberlander TF. Prenatal SSRI exposure alters neonatal corticosteroid binding globulin, infant cortisol levels and emerging HPA function. Psychoneuroendocrinology . 2012 Jul;37(7):1019-28. PMID: 22177580

    Rurak D, Lim K, Sander A, Brain U, Riggs W, Oberlander T. et al. Third trimester middle cerebral artery Doppler blood flow predicts neonatal behavioral state regulation on day 6 infants with prenatal SSRI antidepressant exposure. Pediatric Research 2011; 70(1):96-101. PMID: 21436759

    Holsti L., Oberlander TF., Brant R. Does Breastfeeding Reduce Acute Procedural Pain in Preterm Infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit? A Randomized Clinical Trial. Pain. 2011 Nov;152(11):2575-81. PMID: 22014760

    Oberlander TF., Miller AR. Antidepressant Use In Children And Adolescents: Practice Touch Points To Guide Pediatricians. Paediatrics & Child Health 2011; 16(9):549-553. [journal link]

    Hippman C, Oberlander TF, Honer WG, Misri S, Austin JC.: Depression during pregnancy: the potential impact of increased risk for fetal aneuploidy on maternal mood. Clin Genet. 2009 Jan; 75(1):30-6. PMID: 18637940

    Haley DW, Grunau RE, Oberlander TF, Weinberg J.: Contingency Learning and Reactivity in Preterm and Full-Term Infants at 3 Months. Infancy. 2008 Dec;13(6):570-95. PMID: 20717491

    Oberlander TF, Grunau R, Mayes L, Riggs W, Rurak D, Papsdorf M, Misri S, Weinberg J.: Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function in 3-month old infants with prenatal selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant exposure. Early Hum Dev. 2008 Oct;84(10):689-97. PMID: 18639992

    Oberlander TF, Warburton W, Misri S, Aghajanian J, Hertzman C.: Effects of timing and duration of gestational exposure to serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants: population-based study. Br J Psychiatry. 2008 May;192(5):338-43. PMID: 18450656

    Oberlander T.F. , Weinberg J., Papsdorf M., Grunau R, Misri S., Devlin A.M. Prenatal exposure to maternal depression, neonatal methylation of human glucocorticoid receptor gene (NR3C1) and infant cortisol stress responses. Epigenetics 2008 3:2, 1-9. PMID: 18536531


    CIHR Operating Grant - Project: "Attention bias and executive functions in 9-14 year olds following prenatal antidepressant exposure" (2014-2019)

    Honours & Awards

    R. Howard Webster Professor in Early Childhood Development (2004-present)

    Human Early Learning Partnership, Senior Scholar Award (2002-2005)

    Early Career UBC Scholar, The Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, UBC (2003-2004)

    Canadian Pediatric Society, Aventis Pasteur Research Award (2003)

    Research Group Members

    My work includes a number of key partnerships at CFRI, HELP, BCCH and UBC, including Pediatrics, Psychology, Neonatology, Reproductive Mental Health, Child Psychiatry, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Cellular & Physiological Sciences.