Dr. Nelson received an honors degree in Psychology from McGill University, a Masters degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, and his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas (in developmental and child psychology). He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in electrophysiology at the University of Minnesota, joined the faculty of Purdue University in 1984, moved to the University of Minnesota in 1986, and moved to Boston in 2005.
Dr. Nelson chaired the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Early Experience and Brain Development, and served on the National Academy of Sciences panel that wrote From Neurons to Neighborhoods. His specific interests are concerned with the effects of early experience on brain and behavioral development, particularly as such experience influences the development of memory and the development of the ability to recognize faces. Nelson studies both typically developing children and children at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, and he employs behavioral, electrophysiological (ERP), and metabolic (MRI) tools in his research.