SEED - Stress, Eating, and Early Development Study



The Stress, Eating, and Early Development (SEED) Study examines the effects of prenatal stress and maternal weight gain on offspring mental and physical health. SEED has enrolled 180 women, recruited from the Maternal Adiposity, Metabolism, and Stress (MAMAS) study, a controlled trial of a mindfulness-based small-group intervention to reduce stress and prevent excess weight gain during pregnancy.

Environmental influences during the first years of life, beginning in the womb, are strong determinants for later life health. Accumulating evidence from prenatal programming and developmental research shows how early life stress and poor nutrition can affect health across the life course. We examine how offspring body composition, temperament, emotion regulation, and executive function develop over the first four years of life, and whether those babies born to women in the intervention group develop more optimally than those born to women from a "treatment as usual" group.

The SEED team has recently completed the sixth wave of assessments. Results from the study are just emerging--stay tuned for updates on findings and publications!

Contact Us





3333 California St., Suite 465
Center for Health and Community
University of California, San Francisco
San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone: 415-359-3291
Fax: 415-502-1010









Nancy Adler, PhD

Department of Psychiatry, UCSF

Elissa Epel, PhD

Department of Psychiatry, UCSF

Barbara Laraia, PhD, MD, RD 

School of Public Health, UC Berkeley 

Abbey Alkon, RN, PhD, FAAN

School of Nursing, UCSF

Pathik Wadhwa, MD, PhD

Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, and Epidemiology, UC Irvine


SEED Study Staff 


Nicki Bush, PhD

Principal Investigator

Dr. Bush is the Principal Investigator of the SEED Study. She joined the UCSF faculty after completing a postdoctoral fellowship as a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the UCSF/UCB site. Prior to that, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in children’s physiologic stress reactivity at UC Berkeley. She received her PhD in Child Clinical Psychology from the University of Washington and completed her child clinical training internship at the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She has a background in basic research as well as clinical and community intervention with families from high-stress contexts, and she is actively involved in policy-oriented projects




Karen Jones-Mason, PhD, JD, MSW

Research Scientist, Investigator

Karen completed the joint MSW/PhD program at the University of California, Berkeley after representing and advocating for at risk youth and their families for over two decades. She is primarily interested in examining how social experience impacts biological development, health and well-being in youth. Her doctoral dissertation examined the association between the quality of attachment relationships and the activation of stress related genes (the serotonin transporter and glucocorticoid receptor gene). She is now examining the association between attachment and telomere length. On SEED Karen is analyzing the associations between maternal sensitivity, infant ANS and overall infant health.




Danielle Roubinov, PhD

Assistant Professor, Investigator

Dr. Roubinov joined the UCSF faculty following a 2-year fellowship in developmental psychobiology in the Department of Pediatrics. She completed her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Arizona State University and her clinical internship at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. Her research explores the physiological, cognitive, and emotional pathways through which experiences of early life adversity shape physical and psychological health outcomes across the lifespan. She has a special interest in the intergenerational transmission of mood disorders and the physiological factors that either enhance risk or protect against the development of internalizing problems among children reared by parents with depression.




Alana Cordeiro, MPH

Current Study Coordinator

Alana graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from San Jose State University and a M.P.H. in Community Health & Prevention, with a focus on Maternal and Child Health from Drexel University in Philadelphia. She is passionate about improving health outcomes for minority and disadvantaged populations, reducing health disparities, and learning about how environment and stress affect health. Alana enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, watching funny movies, and being active.





Michael Coccia, MS


Michael is a research statistician for the SEED Study. He completed a bachelor's in Biobehavioral Health and a mater's in Applied Statistics at Penn State University. His work is focused on understanding change processes measured at different time scales (e.g., second-by-second to month-to-month to year-over-year) through selection and implementation of appropriate statistical models. Every day he likes walking, talking, and laughing. Most days he gets stoked to bicycle SF's hills. Some days he enjoys a pastry breakfast. If lucky, he stumbles into a used bookstore.





Kristen L. Rudd

Kristen L. Rudd

Postdoctoral Scholar

Kristen joined the SEED study after completing her PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of California, Riverside. Her research explores how structures of support or adversity impact children’s physiological regulation and how these differences in regulatory responses influence physical and psychosocial health across development. The overall goal of her research is to identify ways to protect positive development and bring about better health outcomes when children encounter stress or adversity, with a focus on reducing health disparities.






Beomyun (Victoria) Han, BA

Assistant Clinical Research Coordinator

Beomyun (Victoria) Han graduated from University of California, Berkeley in 2017 with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology. She has assisted in research in the ReADI Lab for addiction interventions at UCSF under Dr. Danielle Ramo, as well as the Relationships and Social Cognition Lab at UC Berkeley under Dr. Ozlem Ayduk. In her time with SEED, she has assisted in medical record abstraction, bio-specimen organization, and data entry. In the future, Victoria would like to pursue a doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology and work with children and adolescents. In her free time, Victoria enjoys watching films and exploring the Bay Area with her friends.





Zoe Caron, BS

Former Project Coordinator

As the SEED Study project coordinator, Zoe manages the assessment team, behavioral coding, and autonomic nervous system scoring projects. Since completing her BS in Psychology and Child Development at Michigan State University in 2012, she has worked on a number of research projects with women and children. Zoe has completed over 2,500 in home assessments with high risk, low-income families and more than 3,000 hours of behavioral coding. She is particularly interested in the development of emotion regulation and autonomic nervous system reactivity in children exposed to early life adversity and plans to pursue a PhD in Child Clinical Psychology. In her free time, she enjoys backpacking, cooking, and keeping up with her 5 nieces and nephews.







SEED Study Alumni/Former Staff

Wendy Chu, Simar Singh, Savannah King, Stephanie Grover

Emily Cohodes, Katie Blackburn, Jennifer Savitz, Maggie Sheppard

Jayme Mulkey Congdon, Marialma Gonzales-Cruz, Yurivia Cervantes, Amy Engler

Cora Ormseth, Nina Marie Francesca Lagman, Alina Dobai, Julissa Cabrera

Margaret Vuong, Jennifer Felder, Michelle Stephens, Vanessa Tearnan


SEED Study Publications

Hagan, M. J., Roubinov, D. R., Cordeiro, A., Lisha, N., & Bush, N. R. (2022). Young children's traumatic stress reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic: The long reach of mothers' adverse childhood experiences. Journal of Affective Disorders318, 130-138.

Noroña-Zhou, A. N., Coccia, M., Epel, E., Vieten, C., Adler, N. E., Laraia, B., ... & Bush, N. R. (2022). The Effects of a Prenatal Mindfulness Intervention on Infant Autonomic and Behavioral Reactivity and Regulation. Psychosomatic Medicine84(5), 525-535. 10.1097/PSY.0000000000001066

Stephens, M., Bush, N., Weiss, S., & Alkon, A. (2021). Distribution, stability, and continuity of autonomic nervous system responsivity at 18-and 36-months of Age. Biological Research For Nursing23(2), 208-217.

Rudd, K. L., Alkon, A., Abrams, B., & Bush, N. R. (2021). Infant weight-for-length gain associated with autonomic nervous system reactivity. Pediatric research90(2), 472-478.

Hagan, M., Coccia, M., Rivera, L., Epel, E., Aschbacher, K., Laudenslager, M., ... & Bush, N. R. (2021). Longitudinal hair cortisol in low-income young children: A useful biomarker of behavioral symptom change?. Psychoneuroendocrinology133, 105389. 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2021.105389

Bush, N. R., Savitz, J., Coccia, M.*, Jones-Mason, K.*, Adler, N., Boyce, W. T., ... & Epel, E. (2020). Maternal Stress During Pregnancy Predicts Infant Infectious and Noninfectious Illness. The Journal of Pediatrics, 228, 117-125.

Congdon, Jayme L. MD, MS*; Nugent, J. Kevin PhD; McManus, Beth M. PT, MPH, ScD; Coccia, Michael MS*; Bush, Nicole R. PhD. A Pilot Validation Study ofvot the Newborn Behavioral Observations System: Associations with Salivary Cortisol and Temperament, Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: December 2020 - Volume 41 - Issue 9 - p 716-723
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000842 

Felder, J.N.*,  Epel, E., Coccia, M.*, Cordeiro, A.*, Laraia, B., Adler, N., Coleman-Phox, K., & Bush, N.R. (2020). Prenatal maternal objective and subjective stress exposures and rapid infant weight gain. The Journal of Pediatrics. In press. 

Roubinov, D.*, Epel, E., Laraia, B., Adler, N., Bush, N. (2019). Transactions between maternal and child depressive symptoms emerge early in life. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychologydoi: 10.1080/15374416.2019.1644649

Jones-Mason, K.*, Alkon, A., Coccia, M.*, & Bush, N. (2018). Autonomic nervous system functioning assessed during the still-face paradigm: A meta-analysis and systematic review of methods, approach and findings. Developmental Review. doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2018.06.002

Roubinov, D.S.*, Felder, J.N.*, Vieten, C., Coleman-Phox, K., Laraia, B., Adler, N, Wilson, L., Epel, E., & Bush, N.R. (2018). Maternal depressive symptoms and infant healthcare utilization: The moderating role of prenatal mindfulness. General Hospital Psychiatry, 53, 82-83. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2018.01.001

Jones-Mason, K.*, Grover, S.*, Coccia, M., & Bush, N. (2018). Basal and reactivity levels of cortisol in one-month-old infants born to overweight or obese mothers from an ethnically and racially diverse, low-income community sample. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 88, 115-120.

Felder, J.*, Roubinov, D.*, Bush, N., Coleman-Phox, K., Laraia, B., Adler, N., & Epel, E. (2018). Effect of prenatal mindfulness training on depressive symptom severity through 18-months postpartum: A latent profile analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 74, 1117-1125.

Bush, N., Jones-Mason, K.*, Coccia, M.*, Caron, Z*, Thomas, M., Wadhwa, P., Laraia, B., Adler, N., & Epel, E. (2017). Effects of pre- and postnatal maternal stress on infant temperament and autonomic nervous system reactivity and regulation in a diverse, low-income population. Development and Psychopathology, 29, 1553-1571. ​

Bush, N., Caron, Z., Blackburn, K., Alkon, A. (2016). Measuring cardiac autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity in toddlers — Resting and developmental challenges. Journal of Visualized Experiments, 108, e53652. doi: 10.3791/53652

Mulkey*, J., Adler, N., Epel, E., Laraia, B. & Bush, N. (2016). A prospective investigation of prenatal stress and childbirth perceptions in an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample. Birth, 43(2), 159-166. doi: 10.1111/birt.12221 .

Bush Publications from the MAMAS Study:

Leung, C., Laraia, B., Coleman-Phox, K., Bush, N., Lin, J., Blackburn, E. H., Adler, N., & Epel, E. (2016). Sugary beverage and food consumption and leukocyte telomere length maintenance in pregnant women. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, advance online publication 15 June 2016. PMID: 27302671 doi:10.1038/ejcn.2016.93

Felder, J.*, Laraia, B., Coleman-Phox, K., Bush, N., Suresh, M., Thomas, M., Adler, N., Epel, E., & Prather, A. (2017). Poor sleep quality, psychological distress, and the buffering effect of mindfulness training during pregnancy. Behavioral Sleep Medicine, 1-15.