Science Pub: “Infancy and Early Childhood: Foundations for a Healthy Life”
September 14th, 2021 | 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Sip your favorite brew, while you learn a thing or two! Science Pub is an opportunity to enjoy learning about science in an informal atmosphere; no scientific background necessary! Just bring your curiosity and a thirst to learn.
There are 2 ways to be at this event:
- In Person – Paradise Creek Brewery will be seating indoors at 100% capacity under the Washington State COVID-19 Mask Mandate and the pub talk will be broadcast/projected on a the large projection screen in the pub/restaurant area.
- On Zoom – Register for the Zoom Talk HERE. Place a food/drink order for pick up at Paradise Creek Brewery’s Downtown Restaurant – 245 SE Paradise St, Pullman. Local delivery is also available. Mention Science Pub and you’ll be sent a link by text or email to join the event. Tip: Place your order early so it’s ready by Science Pub time.
Please also visit the Facebook event for this talk.
This month’s speakers:
Join Maria (Masha) Gartstein and Sammy Perone on September 14th for their pub talk, “Infancy and Early Childhood: Foundations for a Healthy Life”.
Infancy is an important developmental period because it provides the foundation for our more complex abilities as we get older. Early development of emotional reactivity is particularly critical as these shape later personality, and steer us toward either adjustment and wellbeing or a pathway that involves challenges with symptoms and disorders compromising mental health later in life. The value of understanding emerging self-regulation is underscored by the fact that its deficits contribute to most identifiable psychiatric symptoms and disorders, and reactivity sets the stage for this critical milestone, as it “comes online” first.
Two important components of emotional reactivity are approach/positive affectivity and avoidance/fearfulness, which are defined and measured on the behavioral, information processing, and brain activity levels. Avoidance/fearfulness develops rapidly at the end of the first year of life which may be an important window of time for early intervention. This development is open to input of contextual factors, including gender, maternal depression, and cultural influences. For example, fear growth is accelerated for girls and infants of mothers reporting more severe symptoms of depression. In addition, culture shapes the extent to which approach/avoidance contribute to development of more advanced attention-based self-regulation.
Emotional reactivity is one piece of self-regulation which refers to our capacity to control our behavior to meet the demands of the context within which we are situated. Self-regulation has an essential role in mental health, physical health, and social well-being across the lifespan. Self-regulation takes root in the brain during infancy. For example, specific types of brain activity in infants’ brains relate to what they attend to and for how long, what they remember, and how they respond to situations that may be joyful or stressful. Infants’ environment influences how their brains develop, too. For example, how parents and infants interact with each other influences growth in brain activity as do environments that are socially and cognitively impoverished.
The same patterns of brain activity in infants that relate to their first abilities to self-regulate persist into early childhood and adulthood. As infants develop into children, they begin to develop the capacity to control themselves in a more intentional way. This ability is called “executive function.” Amazingly, preschool-age children who have “good” executive function abilities grow up to be adults who are healthy, responsible citizens, and, by mid-life, are prepared to age physically and financially well. But this doesn’t mean a child with “poor” executive function abilities is destined to grow into an unhealthy adult. Instead, it means we must identify factors that put infants and children at risk and also those factors that nurture these abilities early in development when they are most malleable.
Current projects in Dr. Gartstein’s and Dr. Perone’s labs at WSU are working toward this goal by focusing on brain activity underlying approach/avoidance and considering how parent-child interactions can positively contribute to self-regulation and brain development. Families with infants or young children interested in participating in our research can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Maria (Masha) Gartstein is a professor in the Washington State University (WSU) Department of Psychology and the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program Director, as well as the Director of ADVANCE at WSU. Current research interests focus on temperament development. Chief among these is the study of the role that parenting plays in how temperament “comes online” in early childhood – featured in the “Nature and Nurture” episode of the Netflix documentary “Babies”. Cross-cultural difference in temperament development represents another area of study, with the help from a global network of collaborators, who recently collaborated on a book, entitled: “Temperament, Parents and Culture: Findings from the Joint Effort Toddler Temperament Consortium (JETTC).” Importantly, Masha Gartstein has focused of brain activity underpinning temperament development. Collaborating with Sammy Perone she is conducting research funded by the National Science foundation, aimed at increasing our understanding of how approach/avoidance emotions and motivation shape the emergence of self-regulation, and how parenting contributes to these processes.
Dr. Sammy Perone moved to Pullman, WA with his wife and two daughters from Minnesota in 2016. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development at WSU. He leads the Lab for the Developing Mind which conducts research on self-regulation from infancy to adulthood. The lab is especially interested in expanding knowledge of how self-regulation develops and working toward innovative ways to foster self-regulation during childhood. The lab provides undergraduate students hands-on experience conducting research on child development and provides mentorship to graduate students in advanced study of development. The lab regularly disseminates information about child development in the local community.
Topics and presenters are arranged by the Palouse Discovery Science Center (PDSC) and WSU’s Entrepreneurial Faculty Ambassador (EFA) Program. All Donations support PDSC. Click here for more information.