The National Centre of Competence (NCCR) "sesam – Swiss etiological study of adjustment and mental health" studied the complex factors behind the healthy psychological development of human beings over a lifetime. Research focused on the period surrounding pregnancy and birth and the changes it spells for newborns and parents.
In several studies, the researchers of NCCR "sesam" showed how burdens and stress during pregnancy affect both mother and newborn and influence the child's development, the baby's psychobiological regulation systems and interaction between the child and its parents. The researchers identified psychological and biological factors that can have a negative effect on a child's development. These factors will provide future research with starting points for strategies aimed at fostering positive child development.
Concurrently, the NCCR "sesam" developed and enhanced different methods and techniques that will facilitate the study of pregnancy, birth and human development from different angles.
Other studies focused on specific psychobiological aspects of human development.
Using an animal model, a research group of the NCCR "sesam" showed that parent-child separation after birth causes changes in certain neurotransmitters and their receptors in the brain. Other researchers were able to demonstrate how the brain reacts to emotionally relevant stimuli from the environment, such as music or a child's crying. Based on these findings, the NCCR's researchers developed and evaluated special programmes to increase the parents' empathy towards their children and improve the quality of their relationship.
Insights gained in the course of the NCCR "sesam" will also be of assistance to researchers studying the influence of genes and other hereditary factors on human development.
The knowledge gained in the ten studies conducted by the NCCR "sesam" is documented in approximately 280 publications. During its five-year span, the NCCR actively promoted junior scientists. A total of 46 master's and 33 doctoral degrees were awarded by the end of 2010. The University of Basel has created three new professorships, one of them within the thematic range of the NCCR "sesam". The two others are joint professorships between the medical faculty and the psychology faculty. They have paved the way for a closer collaboration between the two faculties. Linked to these joint professorships is a trans-faculty research platform for molecular and cognitive neurosciences which builds on the infrastructures created by the NCCR. The platform also offers research groups from outside the relevant faculties a laboratory for conducting analyses and a database of samples.
The NCCR "sesam" began its research in August 2006 and came to an end in September 2010 after a ruling by the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) on 19 January 2009. The ruling came at the request of the NCCR directors after it had become clear that the NCCR would not be able to achieve its initial objective due to a lack of study participants.