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Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience

Laboratories of Cognitive NeuroscienceUnder the direction of Charles A. Nelson, PhD, the Boston Children's Hospital Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience are dedicated to furthering our understanding of brain and cognitive development in typically developing infants and children, as well as children diagnosed with or at risk for various developmental disorders. In gaining a better understanding of these processes, our goal is to contribute to the healthy growth and development of our children.

Our multidisciplinary team of researchers brings together experts from a wide range of fields, including neuroscience, psychology, and education. In collaboration with clinical experts in fields such as developmental pediatrics and child neurology, we are working to expand our knowledge of child development and developmental disorders through cutting edge cognitive neuroscience research. Our central areas of focus include the development of memory and face-processing, the impact of environmental factors such as stress on cognitive development, and growing research programs in autism, ADHD, and dyslexia. Through this collaborative and comprehensive approach, we aim to drive the science forward as rapidly as possible, so that we can translate what we learn into earlier identification, improved therapies, and better outcomes for children and families affected by developmental disorders.

We invite you to learn more about our labs and ongoing research initiatives by watching the video below or clicking on the menu links above and to the left. Thank you for your interest in our work!

The Nelson Laboratory

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Charles Nelson, PhD.Dr. Nelson and his staff are studying a variety of questions related to brain and behavior development in infants and children. In particular they are interested in the role that experience plays in shaping these developmental pathways. Current areas of focus include:

  • The ability to recognize faces and emotions. How do infants and children learn to process the social information that faces convey? What is happening differently for children with autism spectrum disorders, who often struggle with everyday social interactions?
  • Memory development. How do babies' memories form? How might early brain injuries be related to later difficulties with learning and memory? Can we learn to identify children at risk for such difficulties, allowing them to receive the support they need as they enter school?
  • The impacts of early biological and psychosocial adversity.  How do such experiences impact brain development? Can we identify ways to remediate some of the negative impacts?

Learn more about the Nelson Laboratory.

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The Gaab Laboratory

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Nadine Gaab, PhD.Dr. Gaab and her staff are interested in brain and cognitive development in typically developing infants and children, as well as children diagnosed with, or at risk for, dyslexia. They are currently exploring the following research questions:

  • Pre-reader language and reading development. How do children with a family history of dyslexia differ from their peers on neural and behavioral levels? Could early markers of dyslexia found at the pre-reading stage be used as early markers of reading ability?
  • Family history of dyslexia and brain development. Are there brain differences between infants with a family history or dyslexia and those without a family history? If so, how early might we be able to identify these differences? Could these differences be used as early markers of dyslexia?
  • Dyslexia and ADHD. What are the connections between dyslexia and ADHD? What are the structural and behavioral differences between children with dyslexia, ADHD, or with both dyslexia and ADHD?

Learn more about the Gaab Labatory.

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The Sheridan Laboratory

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Margaret Sheridan, PhD.Dr. Sheridan and her staff are studying a variety of questions related to brain and behavior development in children and adolescents. Their current work focuses on the following areas:

  • Development. How does goal-directed behavior develop across childhood and adolescence? Are there ‘sensitive periods’ where experience matters most for this important skill? Is goal directed behavior one thing or are there many components?
  • Experience and Adversity. How do different social environments impact brain development across childhood? Sometimes kids are exposed to adverse early experiences such as exposure to violence or neglect. How do these experiences shape their future? Is there an impact on brain development? If so, what kind?
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  Can we use neuroimaging to more reliably diagnose ADHD in young children? How is ADHD reflected in neural function and structure? What can we learn about diagnosis and treatment by examining the brain in children with ADHD.

Learn more about the Sheridan Laboratory.

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The Faja Laboratory

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Dr. Faja and her team are studying social and cognitive development in individuals with autism spectrum disorders, other neurodevelopmental disorders, and typical development. Currently, their work is focused on:

  • Plasticity and treatment response. Can existing training programs be adapted for clinical use? Which aspects of behavior and neural function change in response to intervention?
  • Individual differences. How can we understand the vast differences in children with autism spectrum disorders? Do we see the same patterns in typical development? Can we better predict which individuals will respond to interventions or may benefit from combinations of treatments?
  • Autism spectrum disorders. What risk factors are associated with specific aspects of autism? How can we better measure the strengths and challenges of all individuals with autism spectrum disorders? How can we better understand and support individuals with autism later in life? 

Learn more about the Faja Laboratory.

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Curious what's new in our research program?

Stay in the loop by following us on Facebook and signing up for our quarterly e-newsletter! Here, we provide information about our current research studies, what's happening with our labs in the news, and other relevant news and updates within the fields of child development and cognitive neuroscience!

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Watch the video below to learn more about our research mission.

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