- National Scientific Council on the Developing Child
- National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs
- Global Children's Initiative
- Frontiers of Innovation
- Science of Health and Development Initiative
- Students, Education and Leadership Development
Advancing the Science of Learning, Health and Behavior
In the 2009-2010 academic year, the Center on the Developing Child continued its Lecture Series in partnership with schools across the University. The series was open to all University students, faculty, and the general public and provided a venue to interact with distinguished scholars whose creative research has made significant advances in the field of child development. This series spotlighted these leaders’ bold contributions to the science of child development and the implications of their research on the worlds of education, policy, public health, medicine, justice, and economic development. The series also analyzed how their research catalyzes new ways of thinking across disciplines to inform policy and practice.
Seth D. Pollak, Ph.D.
"How Social Experience Gets Under the Skin: Affective Neuroscience Approaches
to Understanding Children Facing Adversity"
April 27, 2010
3:30 – 5:30pm
Boylston Hall, Harvard Yard
Seth Pollak's research answers important questions about the mechanisms of children's emotional development through an innovative combination of methods from psychophysics, neuroscience, and behavioral endocrinology. He has documented how early experience sculpts the brain to create the emotional lives of children through his studies comparing children who have experienced neglect, stress, or abuse early in life with children who have developed typically. Studies of emotion processing in children facing significant adversity suggest that certain aspects of emotional development are influenced by experience. These include the perception of cues representing threat and the regulation of attention to certain aspects of emotion. These results imply that some neural systems are more modifiable by (and dependent upon) early sensory experience than are others. Using several different experimental approaches, Pollak's lab is exploring the mechanisms that link early emotional experiences with heightened risk for the development of psychopathology.
Seth D. Pollak, Ph.D.
College of Letters and Science Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Professor of Anthropology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Charles A. Nelson III, Ph.D.
Professor of Pediatrics and Neuroscience and Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Richard David Scott Chair in Pediatric Developmental Medicine Research, Research Director, Division of Developmental Medicine, Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Children’s Hospital Boston
Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D.
Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development, Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Graduate School of Education;Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston; Director, Center on the Developing Child
Eric R. Kandel, M.D.
Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2000
"The Molecular Biology of Memory Storage and the Biological Basis of Individuality"
February 8, 2010
3:30 - 5:30 P.M.
Science Center, Lecture Hall D, 1 Oxford Street, Cambridge, Mass.
Co-Sponsors: Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Medical School
Dr. Kandel's lecture considered the neural systems and molecular mechanisms that contribute to learning and long-term memory. He divided his talk into two parts: First, he considered how different memory systems in the human brain were identified and shown to be involved in simple and complex forms of memory storage. Dr. Kandel then outlined animal studies of simple forms of memory, which demonstrated that long-term memory is reflected in the growth of new synaptic connections, as well as complex forms of memory in the hippocampus. Finally, Dr. Kandel discussed how our insights into memory are allowing us to understand various forms of age-related memory loss.
Eric R. Kandel, M.D., is University Professor in the Departments of Neuroscience, Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, Psychiatry, Biochemistry, and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University. A graduate of Harvard College and N.Y.U. School of Medicine, Kandel trained in Neurobiology at the National Institutes of Health and in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He joined the faculty of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in 1974 as the founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior. At Columbia Kandel organized the neuroscience curriculum. He is an editor of Principles of Neural Science, the standard textbook in the field. He recently has written a book on the brain for the general public entitled In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind.
Eric Kandel’s research has been concerned with the molecular mechanisms of memory storage in Aplysia and mice. More recently, he has studied animal models in mice of memory disorders and mental illness. Kandel has received 18 honorary degrees, is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences as well as the National Science Academies of Germany and France. He has been recognized with the Albert Lasker Award, the Heineken Award of the Netherlands, the Gairdner Award of Canada, the Wolf Prize of Israel, the National Medal of Science USA and the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2000.
Steven E. Hyman, Provost of Harvard University and Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School
Sir Michael Rutter, M.D.
"Using Science to Improve Preventive Policies: Some Challenges and Dilemmas"
April 14, 2009; Cambridge, Mass.
Co-Sponsors: Harvard Graduate School of Education; Department of Society, Human Development, and Health at Harvard School of Public Health
This lecture focused on five key issues that seem to suggest a need for some rethinking both about research needs and future directions in prevention. First, although, of course, it is desirable to reduce children’s exposure to major hazards such as physical and sexual abuse, the evidence suggests that protection often lies in appropriate exposure to manageable hazards and not their avoidance (cf the parallel with either natural acquired immunity to infections, or immunization). Second, regrettably little is known on how environments “get under the skin” to bring about lasting sequelae. The design of effective interventions would be helped by a better understanding of biological mechanisms. For example, does abuse create risk by effects on the neuroendocrine system, by epigenetic programming effects, by effects on internal working models, or by immediate effects on behaviour that influences the later shaping or selecting of environments? Third, there is extensive evidence of huge individual variation in responses to all hazards—physical and psychosexual. Moreover, there is growing evidence that genes moderate environmental effects as a result of gene-environment interaction. Thus, genes bring about effects in part by “getting outside the skin” to influence co-action with the environment. Fourth, the resilience that is revealed by such heterogeneity in response does not primarily reflect the passive response of individuals to the environments they encounter. Rather, resilience needs to be thought of as an active, dynamic process that involves individual agency and coping. Fifth, although early experiences are particularly important because they come first and may, thereby, set in motion either positive or negative cycles, the potential for change (including major change) remains right through life. Accordingly, attention needs to be focused on early steps that may be taken to foster an ability to take advantage of later opportunities.
Sir Michael Rutter, M.D., Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London, was born in 1933 and trained in general medicine, neurology and pediatrics before specializing in psychiatry. He was appointed the first consultant of child psychiatry in the UK and has been Head of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, London, and Honorary Director of the Medical Research Council Child Psychiatry Unit. His studies of autism, depression, antisocial behavior, reading difficulties, deprived children, overactive children, school effectiveness and children whose psychiatric problems have a clear organic component has resulted in many publications. One of the most influential was Maternal Deprivation Reassessed (1972) in which he argued (against John Bowlby) that it was the norm for children to form multiple attachments rather than a selective attachment with just one person. Professor Rutter is recognized as contributing to the establishment of child psychiatry as a medical and biopsychosocial specialty with a strong scientific base. In 1994 he set up the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Unit at the Institute of Psychiatry. The goal of the Centre is to bridge the gap between “nature” (genetics) and “nurture” (environment) as they interact in the development of complex human behavior, such as depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children. Professor Rutter was knighted in 1992 and is an honorary member of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and founding Fellow of the Academia Europaea and the Academy of Medical Sciences. The Michael Rutter Centre for Children and Adolescents at the Maudsley Hospital, London, is named after him.
Howard Gardner, John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences