Nelson Laboratory

As part of the Boston Children's Hospital Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, the Nelson laboratory focuses on many aspects of infant and child development, including typical development and various developmental disorders such as autism. Through our research, including several collaborations with colleagues around the world, we aim to shed light on the many ways in which a child's experience can shape the developing brain.

One of our main areas of focus is the development of the ability to recognize faces and facial emotions. Faces convey a great deal of information in our everyday lives, and the ability to interpret them successfully is essential to navigating our social world. In particular, we focus on how these abilities come "on-line" in the first years of life.

We also work with infants and children at risk for developing autism and children who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. One of our current autism research projects is exploring the gender differences associated with autism. More specifically, we are aiming to shed light on why more boys are diagnosed with autism than girls.

A final and dominant theme of our work involves children exposed to early biological and psychosocial adversity, and how such experiences can impact the course of their brain development. A case in point is our Bucharest Early Intervention Project, in which we are examining the effects of early institutionalization on brain and behavioral development.

Thank you for your interest in our lab.

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Spotlight on Research

Dr. Nelson recently appeared on the Charlie Rose Show to speak about the neurobiology of parenting. 

Bucharest Early Intervention Project

Romania's Abandoned Children
Deprivation, Brain Development, and the Struggle for Recovery

We are excited to share with you Dr. Nelson's new book about the Bucharest Early Intervention Project: Romania’s Abandoned Children: Deprivation, Brain Development, and the Struggle for Recovery.

Published by Harvard University Press, the book presents the full history of the project, findings from the first eight years, and recommendations for policy makers, providers, and researchers based on what we've learned thus far.

Read more about the Bucharest Early Intervention Project