We are scientists who conduct research on emotional development and associated neurobiology. Our research focuses on the process of development itself and how early experiences impact emotional behavior and brain development. Dr. Nim Tottenham is the Principal Investigator of the lab. Students in the laboratory work on projects covering a wide range of topics including neurobiological correlates of early adversity, emotion regulation, face processing, and temperament.
We are longitudinally examining the normative development of the amygdala and its connections with the cortex from early childhood through the transition into adolescence.
Effects of Early-Life Adversity on Brain Development
In order to better understand how early experiences shape brain development, we study the neurodevelopment of children who experience various forms of early life stress (e.g., poor caregiving) in hopes to understand long-term effects of early adversity in humans.
Children's Memory and How it is Modulated by the Environment
Children are excellent learners and can develop skills which will last a lifetime. However, as adults we find it difficult to recall specific experiences from our childhood. We are interested in examining what happens in the brain when children forget experiences, as well as when they remember them. We are also interested in how signals from the environment, such as parents (or even gut microbes!), can modulate what children remember.
Effects of Parents on Children's Emotional Learning and Appraisal
Children learn a lot from their parents, including how to understand when emotional (e.g., scary) events happen. To understand how this works, we examine how children learn by observing their parents express emotions. We also examine whether having a parent present can influence the way a child learns about emotional events. Children also tend to respond to ambiguity differently than adolescents and adults. In order to understand how parents can influence their child’s emotional responding, we are studying how children change their appraisal of ambiguous emotional information when in proximity to their parents versus a stranger.
Development of Cognitive Flexibility
Cognitive flexibility is important for guiding goal-directed behavior, especially when the environment is uncertain. We are studying how children and adolescence make decisions under conditions of uncertainty in order to understand how cognitive flexibility changes across different stages of development.