© 2015 Neurocognition, Early Experience, and Development Lab   |   212-678-3319   |   Teachers College, Columbia University

Experimental Poverty Reduction: A Pilot Randomized Control Trial

In response to the growing body of research examining the effects of socioeconomic disparities on cognitive development, a team of social scientists and neuroscientists propose the first randomized experiment testing causal connections between poverty reduction and brain development among very young children. The current pilot study, called the Baby's First Year Project and supported by the Annie E. Casey, W.K. Kellogg, Jacobs, Smith-Richardson, Sherwood, JPB, and Weitz Family Foundations, implements a smaller-scale version of the income intervention in order to gauge the feasibility of the multi-site project.

For more information, watch the video.
Collaborators: Dr. Greg Duncan, Dr. Katherine Magnuson, Dr. Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Dr. Lisa Gennetian,
Dr. Nathan Fox

MRI Study of Children's Language and Brain Development
Previous research shows that socioeconomic disparities in early childhood are related to differences in children's language, memory, and self-regulation abilities. This study, supported by the  Irving Institute for Clinical & Translational Research and the GH Sergievsky Center, investigates the environmental, neuroendocrine and neural factors that contribute to differences in these skills. We are studying the relations among exposure to linguistic stimulation, stress levels and physiology, brain structure, and cognitive outcomes in five- to seven-year-old children.


The Association between Socioeconomic Status and Children's Brain Structure

Socioeconomic disadvantage in childhood is associated with remarkable differences in cognitive development during a time when dramatic changes are occurring in the brain. We explore the hypothesis that these cognitive difference reflect SES-based disparities in brain structure and function. In a previous study, we found that parental SES correlated with child hippocampal and amygdala volume. Additionally, we demonstrated that SES differences in brain regions that support language increased with age (Noble et al., 2012). We recently followed on this study by investigating SES-related differences in cortical thickness and surface area (Noble et al., 2015, Nature Neuroscience). Ongoing work is examining regionally specific differences in brain structure by age and language status.

Primary collaborator: Dr. Elizabeth Sowell

Baby Behavior, Language, and EEG (BabBLE) Study

Recent findings from our lab have demonstrated SES disparities in language and memory development emerging by 15 months (Noble et al., 2015, Developmental Psychobiology) and a significant role of the home environment as early as 9 months (Melvin et al., under review). To explore these findings further, we are launching a new study that will examine the ways in which early experiences such as home language environment, parent-child interactions, and parent stress impact language, memory, and brain development in 6-12 month old infants. This project is funded by Teachers College, Columbia University and the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience at Columbia University.

Primary collaborators: Dr. Bill Fifer and Dr. Jane Waldfogel

Bilingualism, SES, & Neurocognitive Development

In the U.S. about 1 in 5 children speak a language other than English at home. Numerous studies have reported associations between multiple language exposure and advantages in executive function and enhanced memory generalization. Past work in our lab has demonstrated a strong link between socioeconomic differences and the development of language, memory, and executive function. The current study examines the independent effects of socioeconomic status and bilingualism on cognitive development during infancy, and will also examine home language input using LENA devices. This project is partially being funded by the RWJ Health & Society Scholars Program, the Columbia University Population Research Center, and the American Psychological Association.

Primary collaborator: Dr. Bill Fifer

Experience and Neurocognitive Development Study
We have shown in several past studies (Noble et al., 2005; Noble et al., 2007) that socioeconomic differences are tightly linked to children's language development, memory, and executive function. In this ongoing longitudinal study funded by the Irving Institute for Clinical & Translational Research, we are examining the origins of these effects. By collaborating with researchers at the Sanford HealthDisparities Research Center who are conducting a large NIH-funded birth cohort study, we are examining how different aspects of the home environment predict the early development of language and memory skills.

Primary collaborators/consultants: Dr. Bill Fifer, Dr. Amy Elliott, Dr. Rachel Barr, Dr. Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Dr. Natalie Brito, DM-Stat

Chemical Environment, Language, and Reading Study
How do aspects of the chemical environment, like exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution, pesticides and chemicals in consumer products influence child development? In collaboration with researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, we are exploring the link between chemical, social, and cognitive factors in an ongoing study focusing on language and reading development.

Primary collaborators: Dr. Virginia Rauh, Dr. Robin Whyatt

Getting Ready for School: A Head Start Intervention
Children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds tend to fare poorly on measures of school readiness, the cognitive and social-emotional skills necessary for success in educational settings. In a previous study, we found that Head Start children performed better on math and literacy measures when their parents had implemented a curriculum designed to promote school readiness (Noble, Duch, et al., 2012). The current study, federally funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (R305A120783), expands upon this framework by adding a classroom component that supports early math and literacy abilities. Additionally, the intervention focuses on self-regulation skills so that children have the tools to deal with social-emotional challenges in and out of the classroom.

Primary collaborators/consultants: Dr. Helena Duch (PI), Dr. Cassie Landers, Dr. Carmen Rodriguez, Dr. Herb Ginsburg, Dr. Fred Morrison, Kathleen Hayes, Dr. Robin Jacob, Dr. Stephanie Jones

This year, the GRS team is focusing on ways to maximize parent engagement with the GRS program and to facilitate parent-teacher coordination and communication across components. Supported by the Heising-Simons Foundation, this aspect of the project will apply recent advances in the field of behavioral economics to design and re-design program materials and delivery.  We are currently using a behavioral economics approach to assess the effects of low-cost, easily implemented microexperiments on parent engagement in Head Start settings.

Primary collaborator: Dr. Lisa Gennetian

Reach Out and Read Parent Bookmark Study
One reason we study how experience affects development is to be able to design better interventions that promote healthy development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents read with their young children every day. Reach Out and Read is a national program in which pediatricians provide books and advice about reading to parents. In this study we are trying to optimize the process of giving out developmentally-appropriate advice about reading by distributing bookmarks to parents.

Broadly, we are interested in how early experiences lead to individual differences in child neurocognition.
We use a variety of methods (standardized tests, MRI and EEG, home observation) and populations to investigate this topic.

Explore the tabs below for specific information on our current studies.


Current Research Directions