The project aims at evaluating the specific role of selenium (Se) in relation to other nutrients and trace
elements in favoring brain and behavioral plasticity. The central hypothesis tested is the role of oxidative
stress and inflammation as key processes connecting diet, peripheral tissues and brain development.
In our experimental models, pregnant and lactating female rats and their offspring till adulthood are fed
with isocaloric diets differing in Se content. The role of Se in supporting brain and behavior development
is assessed both per se and in the presence of lead (Pb), an environmental stressor able to affect
cognitive development that is a concern in some European countries. The project is organized in 5 work
packages aimed at dissecting the effects of the different diets on behavioral development, cognitive
functions, hippocampal synaptic plasticity and peripheral and central inflammation, using ex vivo and in
vitro approaches and transcriptomic, proteomic, metabolomics/lipidomic, measurement of oxidative
stress and inflammatory pathways in different target organs. The offspring of the two sexes at different
ages are separately considered to assess sex-differences in neurodevelopment. The experimental
studies are reinforced by the observations obtained from an ongoing EU human birth cohort (the Polish
Mother and Child Cohort) where exposure to Pb, micronutrients, lifestyle have been measured in
children in association with assessment of cognitive, language and motor development.
The results of the project could, in the long term, have a significant impact on the consumption habits,
and consequently ameliorate health of populations suffering from partial selenium deficiency and
exposed to chemical stressors, in particular during pregnancy and in childhood.