Delineating Environmental Effects on Brain and Cognitive Development
This Minerva Group was headed by Yee Lee Shing from 2012 to 2016.
The overarching goal of this group to better understand the mechanisms through which environmental factors, such as school entry and stress-related social disadvantage, may affect neural and behavioral development. The HippoKID Study longitudinally followed children born close to the cut-off date for school entry who subsequently did or did not enter school that year. Schoolchildren displayed larger behavioral improvements in cognitive control than kindergarteners, and also showed increased activation in posterior parietal cortex, a region important for sustained attention, while performing an inhibitory control task. In contrast, longitudinally observed improvements in episodic memory did not differ reliably between the two groups, suggesting that formal school entry primarily promotes brain mechanisms that help children to focus on cognitively demanding tasks. The longitudinal Jacobs Study aims to elucidate the roles of glucocorticoid and inflammation signaling in mediating the effects of stress on neural and behavioral development while assessing moderators at multiple levels, including (epi-)genetic dispositions.