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Nim Tottenham, PhD

  • Speaker Type: Early Years Symposium 2023
  • Country: United States

Nim Tottenham, PhD is a Professor of Psychology at Columbia University and Director of the Developmental Affective Neuroscience Laboratory. Her research examines brain development underlying emotional behavior in humans. In particular, her laboratory investigates the interplay between brain development and caregiving experienced by humans. Her research has highlighted fundamental changes in brain circuitry across development and the powerful role that early experiences, such as caregiving and stress, have on the construction of these circuits. She has authored over 130 journal articles and book chapters. She is a frequent lecturer both nationally and internationally on human brain and emotional development. She is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and of the Society for Experimental Psychologists, and her scientific contributions have been recognized by the National Institute of Mental Health BRAINS Award, the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology, and most recently by the National Academy of Sciences Troland Research Award and the Flux Congress Linda Spear Award.

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Early Experiences and Emotional Brain Development
Human brain development is very slow, but there is value to this slow pace. This pace maximizes the chances for learning from developmental experiences (for example, caregiving by parents) and by doing so, developing highly sophisticated emotional behaviors by adulthood. Brain circuitry involving the amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) support fundamental aspects of emotional behavior (learning about, responding to, and regulating emotions), and in this talk, I will present studies that describe their development, including functional magnetic resonance imaging data showing age-related changes in amygdala-mPFC circuitry. I argue that the development of this circuitry in humans is intimately associated with caregiving, such that parents exert significant and enduring neural modulation during development. The findings presented are highly consistent with the animal literature showing both large changes in amygdala-mPFC circuitry throughout development, as well as the large influence of parental care in shaping this neural circuitry. This talk will focus on both typical development as well as development following caregiving-related stress showing that early life environments may influence development through learning and modification of developmental trajectories. These age-related changes will be discussed in terms of potential developmental sensitive periods for environmental influence.
Lectures by Profession, Product Focus
Presentations: 9  |  Hours / CE Credits: 9  |  Viewing Time: 8 Weeks