The MEFS is a testing app that early educators can use to measure executive function (EF) and early learning readiness in children. It is the only early learning readiness assessment measuring executive function that can be used with children as young as two years old. The MEFS was developed by Institute of Child Development Professors Stephanie Carlson, Ph.D., and Philip Zelazo, Ph.D., who started Reflection Sciences.
“Executive function skills are vital for children’s school readiness and later achievement, and we now have a way to quickly and validly measure EF against national and local norms,” Carlson says. “We are delighted to be collaborating with CEED, the state’s premier training organization for public and private early education providers, to help others learn to use the MEFS in their organizations.”
“Early educators who are looking for new, effective ways to promote children’s learning and social skills will appreciate the ease of using the MEFS,” says Amy Susman-Stillman, Ph.D., a research associate at CEED. “It provides information about children’s development that no other assessment tool does and makes it simpler to understand a child’s individual needs.”
Mirror- touch synesthesia (MTS) is a condition that allows individuals to experience the same sensation that another person feels.
For the research, conducted at the University of Delaware, DePasquale led a screening process involving 2,351 undergraduate students. Each student was shown videos of hands being touched and then asked if they could feel anything, where the touch was felt, and the strength of the sensation. Of the students screened, 45 were found to have MTS.
“When I would debrief them, many would tell me about sensations they felt while watching movies,” DePasquale says. “It was almost as if they were a part of the movie—feeling touch, pain and other physical sensations that the characters were experiencing.”
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in infants with older siblings with autism, researchers from around the country, including the University of Minnesota (UMN), were able to predict which infants would later meet criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at two years of age, with 80 percent accuracy.
“The findings lay the foundation for the field to move toward attempting to implement interventions before the symptoms that define autism consolidate into a diagnosis,” said study co-author Jed Elison, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UMN Institute of Child Development.
“Typically, the earliest an autism diagnosis can be made is between ages two and three. But for babies with older autistic siblings, our imaging approach may help predict during the first year of life which babies are most likely to receive an autism diagnosis at 24 months,” said senior author Joseph Piven, M.D., the Thomas E. Castelloe Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
This research project included hundreds of children from across the country and was led by researchers at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD) at the University of North Carolina (UNC). The project’s other clinical sites included the University of Washington, Washington University in St. Louis, and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In addition to the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development, other key collaborators are McGill University, the University of Alberta, the College of Charleston, and New York University (see ibisnetwork.org for more information.)
For this study, published today in Nature, the team of researchers conducted MRI scans of infants at six, 12 and 24 months of age. They found that the babies who developed autism experienced a hyper-expansion of brain surface area from six to 12 months, as compared to babies who had an older sibling with autism but did not themselves show evidence of the condition at 24 months of age. Increased growth rate of surface area in the first year of life was linked to increased growth rate of overall brain volume in the second year of life. Brain overgrowth was tied to the emergence of autistic social deficits in the second year.
The researchers then took these data – MRIs of brain volume, surface area, cortical thickness at 6 and 12 months of age, and sex of the infants – and used a computer program to identify a way to classify babies most likely to meet criteria for autism at 24 months of age. The computer program developed the best algorithm to accomplish this, and the researchers applied the algorithm to a separate set of study participants.
The researchers found that brain differences at 6 and 12 months of age in infants with older siblings with autism correctly predicted eight out of 10 infants who would later meet criteria for autism at 24 months of age in comparison to those infants with older ASD siblings who did not meet criteria for autism at 24 months.
According to the researchers, the findings may have implications for early detection and intervention in children who have older siblings with autism before a diagnosis is typically established. Diagnosis of ASD typically occurs after 24 months of age, the earliest time when behavioral characteristics of ASD can be observed. Intervening early could lead to improved outcomes, as the brain is more malleable in the first years of life compared with later in childhood.
“This area of research is incredibly exciting because it provides an opportunity to understand how autism unfolds early in life,” said Jason Wolff, Ph.D., an assistant professor in educational psychology at UMN and a study co-author. “It provides new clues about the timing and specific mechanisms of brain development that precede a diagnosis. It also offers the unprecedented possibility of predicting whether or not a child will develop autism based on neurobiological data.”
“These findings not only are significant for the field of autism, but they also could inform the broader field of psychiatry and prevention science as it relates to various psychiatric conditions,” Elison said. “This research highlights the best of contemporary science. It’s collaborative, and informed by technology and multiple areas of expertise, with the common goal of helping families.”
The National Institutes of Health funded this study.
The piece discussed empirical evidence around the issues of race, poverty, intergenerational mobility, and the opportunity and achievement gaps. For a 2015 study, Roisman and colleagues examined “racially disparate conditions,” such as family income, maternal education, and learning materials in the home, as well as child birth order and child birth weight. They found that such conditions “can account for the relation between race and cognitive test scores.”
The Masten Lab at the Institute of Child Development is seeking a Research Assistant to help with a positiveemotion coding project. The position is available immediately and open to students in any major. While this is an unpaid position, we can definitely work with you to get research credit or Honors experience for this position.
Research Activities: The project investigates how expressions of joy, pride, happiness and pleasure during a self-motivated magnetic fishing game is related to positive outcomes.
The RA will be asked to watch the videos of young children engaging in a life-size magnetic fishing game on their own. Every 15 seconds, they will code the child’s face, voice, and body on intensity of positiveemotion using a detailed coding manual. This is an advanced coding system, and you will receive training on the coding process in order to achieve reliability with the anchor coder, as well as ongoing support throughout the project. Your input into how the coding process can be modified and improved will also be encouraged.
This position may be of particular interest to individuals interested in going to graduate school in the field of psychology and seeking to gain research experience.
Previous research experience is a plus. However, we are primarily seeking individuals who are interested to learn about this topic area and have a strong attention to detail.
We are flexible about hours per week (usually RAs choose to work anywhere from 3 to 10 hours per week) and anticipate there will be a total of around 35 to 50 hours of coding and work overall from start to finish.
Please send the following:
b. Unofficial Transcript (can be downloaded for free at Onestop)
c. 1-2 paragraphs explaining why you are interested in this position
In the e-mail Subject Line, please write “Application for PositiveEmotion Project.”
Send this material to Jyothi Ramakrishnan at email@example.com. Also, feel free to e-mail me any questions you might have prior to applying!
AchieveMPLS is a non-profit partner of Minneapolis Public Schools that focuses on career and college readiness for students in Minneapolis. Their EDTalks aim to call attention to a wide range of issues impacting public education.
During her EDTalk, Gunnar emphasized the importance of fostering healthy child development and discussed ways to ensure that children grow and live in healthy environments.
“If we work together, we can think of a comprehensive set of plans across the community to work on over the years to create the kind of context we want for our communities, for the families and children there, so that we will all have a bright future,” Gunnar said.
The Tri-Psychology Programs—Institute of Child Development, Psychology, and Educational Psychology—at the University of Minnesota are deeply committed to supporting underrepresented students in the psychological sciences. Together, we strive to create welcoming, affirming, and inclusive spaces and seek to foster respectful exchanges of ideas that allow us to embrace the power of diversity of perspectives and backgrounds to enrich us all.
Toward this end, we invite applications for the 2016-17 Tri-Psych Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Student Fund. The goal of this award is to build community and facilitate cross-departmental collaborations among tri-psych students from traditionally underrepresented groups. For this award, underrepresentation is defined as groups who have been traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education through their race, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, disability, religious affiliation, and socioeconomic status.
We seek innovative proposals that build community for underrepresented students, provide opportunities to encourage and support your fellow students, and build stronger collaborations across departments.
The Master’s of Arts (M.A.) in Applied Child and Adolescent Development program aims to equip students with a foundation in development science that can be applied in advocacy, community, and health care settings. Through the program, students will gain knowledge in cognitive and biological development, social and emotional development, research methods and ethics. The program is entirely online, allowing students to learn from where they are.
“Children are our future — the nation’s future. At this critical time, we must ensure that children and adolescents receive the support they need to develop and grow into healthy, thriving adults,” says Megan Gunnar, Ph.D., director of ICD. “Our new master’s degree seeks to do just that by helping students build a foundation in development science that they can use in real-world situations.”
The M.A. is intended for individuals who would like to build a career working with children or adolescents or creating and implementing practices and policies that support their well-being and development. The M.A. also is ideal for professionals working in fields that serve children who are seeking to advance their career. The program currently is accepting applications for Fall 2017.
The CCDBG is a $5.3 billion block grant program that provides funding to states, territories, and tribes in an effort to increase access to quality care for low-income families with young children. In 2014, Congress reauthorized the CCDBG and identified low-income children with special needs as a priority target population.
The briefing shared findings from a research project funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research, Planning and Evaluation. For the project, Sullivan and Susman-Stillman analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of young children with and without special needs to determine whether children with special needs equally access child care subsidies and how child care subsidies affect use of various care types and quality.
Sullivan and Susman-Stillman’s analysis found that throughout early childhood, children with special needs are less likely to access subsidized child care and that subsidy use increased the likelihood that a family would use home- or center-based care. The analysis also found that subsidized children with special needs spend more hours in care than non-subsidized children with special needs, and that subsidy use does not ensure access to quality care.
According to Sullivan and Susman-Stillman, based on the study’s findings, stakeholders should address inequities in accessing subsidized care for children with special needs and reduce barriers parents and providers face in finding and supplying high-quality care.
The article examined how attachment theory can be used to explain and improve how individuals function in relationships. The article also discussed the four classic categories of attachment styles: secure, insecure anxious, insecure avoidant, and insecure disorganized.
“It can also be possible that people should be viewed as along a continuum in all categories,” Roisman said.
The Crisis Nursery works to end child neglect and abuse and help build healthier families. At the nursery, DePasquale is working to develop a behavioral measure that will help staff evaluate program offerings.
“My goal is to help identify opportunities for improvement,” DePasquale says. “Whether that means adding programs, or potentially just finding different ways to help the kids deal with transitions. They’re not used to getting up and going about a normal day.”
“In Minnesota alone, 76 percent of all incarcerated women are mothers with minor children,” Shlafer says. “And 66 percent of all incarcerated men are fathers with minor children.”
Data show that parental incarceration can increase a child’s risk for mental health problems, substance abuse, and delinquency. To examine the issue, Shlafer’s lab, which partners College of Liberal Arts undergraduates with medical school faculty, allows students to pursue many different research projects. For example, student projects have analyzed drawings by the children of incarcerated parents and the impact of developmentally-appropriate materials on conversations about incarceration between children and their caregivers.
“The fact that this is an understudied problem means that we can really have an impact,” Shlafer says. “I tell my students, ‘Pick any part of this problem and we can make a difference.'”
Jessica Pleuss, Ph.D., an alumna of the Institute of Child Development, recently received the Sharon Walker Faculty Excellence award from Morningside College. Pleuss is an assistant professor of psychology at the Sioux City, Iowa-based institution. The award is based on the educator’s accomplishments and academic excellence over the course of the previous academic year. The recipients of the Walker award are granted $10,000 honorarium and $2,000 to use for faculty development.
Elison, who specializes in developmental social neuroscience, structural brain development, and autism, recently won a $2.45 million grant from the National Institutes of Health called BRAINS (Biobehavioral Research Award for Innovative New Scientists). Through the project, he aims to chart brain development in children between the ages of three and 24 months.
According to Elison, “understanding this developmental period in greater detail may ultimately allow us to improve the health and wellbeing of children.”
Participants can join this MOOC for free or register for a fee ($49) to earn a Course Certificate.
Beginning this year, participants of the course may qualify for continuing education clock hours through the University of Minnesota. To earn clock hours, a participant must complete the course, earn a Course Certificate from Coursera, and apply for continuing education clock hours through the university.
Below, Masten discusses the developmental effects of trauma and why now is a critical time to learn about the resilience of individuals and systems around the world.
How does trauma influence development? Trauma can have profound effects on people at any age. Trauma strains the systems that keep us in balance and it can alter aspects of human interaction at all levels, from the biological level to the societal level.
Why is it important to focus on trauma now? We live in a world that is threatened by trauma of many different kinds on a scale not seen since World War II. Globally, we face terrorism, war, pandemics, and more frequent natural disasters. There is international interest in resilience because we will continue to experience such catastrophes for the foreseeable future.
What is resilience and how does it help children succeed? Resilience is the capacity to overcome serious threats to development and go on to lead a successful life. Resilience can also apply to any system, such as a family, the planet or the economy. Resilience of individuals depends on resilience of other systems they interact with. In the case of children, the younger the child is, the more dependent they are on the adults who are caring for them.
How would you describe your course to a potential participant? This course highlights what we’ve learned about resilience in the past 50 years. I provide an overview of resilience theories, what we have learned from global studies, exciting new research directions, and how this knowledge is being applied in the real world to promote resilience.
What are the benefits of taking your course? This MOOC provides a convenient and interesting way to learn about the science of resilience and how it can be applied to help children. It also is an opportunity to discuss resilience issues with a diverse set of professionals working around the world.
In their research, Sera and Koenig examine how children learn languages and whether the process is different when a child is learning their native tongue or a new language. Sera and Koenig also are exploring methods for teaching a new language to English speakers. An estimated 40 percent of students in U.S. schools will be non-native English speakers by 2030.
“Before we began this work, we thought that young children learning a second language would learn it quickly, and we saw it wasn’t as quickly as we thought,” Sera says.
Sera and Koenig’s findings could inform how educators approach teaching English language learners. “When educators have kids in their classrooms with a minority-language status, you don’t want to ask them to lose that in favor of just focusing on the dominant language,” Koenig says. “You want a curriculum that supports their strengths. Keeping their native language strong will only support their acquisition of English.”
Experiencing negative events and living in a high-stress environment can inhibit a child’s brain development and lead to negative health consequences later in life. Through her research, Brown aims to uncover the factors that may help children overcome adversity and lead to positive long-term outcomes.
Brown is especially interested in research centered around children and their families. “Working with the entire family really opened my eyes to see why kids were acting in certain ways,” Brown says.
One of her goals is to inform researchers, advocates, and social support networks about the tools they can use to help victimized children and adolescents. “The experience that you have in childhood doesn’t have to define you for the rest of your life. You can overcome it, and you can emerge resilient,” Brown says.