Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience | Who we are

Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience Staff

Charles A. Nelson, Ph.D.

Research Director, Division of Developmental Medicine (contact Charles A. Nelson)

Charles A. NelsonCharles A. Nelson, III, Ph.D.  is recognized internationally as a leader in the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience, where he has achieved numerous breakthroughs in broadening scientific understanding of brain and behavioral development during infancy and childhood. Over the last two decades, Dr.  Nelson has focused his research efforts on several different fields.  He has a long standing interest in the development and neural bases of memory and in how infants and young children come to recognize faces and facial expressions of emotion.  A more recent interest concerns infants and children at high risk for developing autism (such as those with an older sibling with autism or who have a particular genetic variance).He also has a particular interest in how early experience influences the course of development, and in this context has studied both typically developing children and children at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders.  Two lines of work in particular stand out in this context.  One is concerned with the effects of early biological adversity, such as being born prematurely or low birth weight or having been deprived of oxygen.  The second is concerned with the effects of early psychosocial adversity.   In this regard, as a Primary Investigator for the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, for the last 10 years Dr. Nelson has been studying children in Romania who were abandoned at birth and raised in institutions.

Here at Boston Children’s Hospital, Dr. Nelson is the Director of Research in the Division of Developmental Medicine and the Richard David Scott Professor of Pediatric Developmental Medicine Research. He is also a Professor of Pediatrics and Neuroscience and Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, an adjunct professor in the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a Professor in the Department of Society, Human Development and Health, at the Harvard School of Public Health.  He also teaches classes in Harvard College, and serves on the steering committee of both the Harvard interfaculty initiative on Mind, Brain and Behavior, and the Harvard Center on the Developing Child.

Dr.  Nelson is frequently cited in print and TV media on topics as diverse as early brain development, the development of face perception, memory development, the effects of early psychosocial deprivation on development, and autism.  He has published over 200 peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters, has edited 8 books, and written 2 books. He has also been a successful leader of large-scale research initiatives within the psychology and neuroscience communities.

Click here to see news coverage of Dr. Nelson and the Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience.

For a select list of publications, click here.

Alissa Westerlund

Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience Program Manager (contact Alissa Westerlund)

I received my bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of North Dakota in 1997, and was hired as Dr. Nelson's Lab Coordinator in 1999. In my current role as Program Manager, I oversee the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience Research Program. The LCN is 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 my role as Program Manager, I oversee day-to-day operations, hiring and training of new and visiting research staff, and implementation of new research projects. 

Kate Roddy 

Recruitment & Community Outreach Coordinator (contact Kate Roddy)

I joined the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience in the fall of 2016 after receiving my B.S. in Communication from Boston University.  As an undergraduate student, my interest in the healthcare field piqued during my internship at Shriners Hospitals for Children in combination with my psychology coursework. I am thrilled to be working as the LCN’s recruitment and community outreach coordinator, and to be learning from the many studies that take place in the lab. 

Katie Larin

LCN Administrator (contact Katie Larin

I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2015 with a degree in Organizational Studies, where I concentrated on healthcare and nonprofit organizations. I joined the LCN as the Administrative Associate in the fall of 2016 after completing a year of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. My interests lie in hospital and organizational culture and leadership, as well as improving patient and family experiences. I am thrilled to join Dr. Nelson’s Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience and to learn more about research administration and the many incredible projects happening in the lab. 

Click the links below to view the lab members from each of our three labs:

The Nelson Lab

 The Gaab Lab

 The Faja Lab