Research News Stories

DURHAM , N.C. -- We’ve all been there. You made a promise you couldn’t keep. Or something came up, and you didn’t follow through on what you said you’d do. It turns out children pay attention to what we say when we don’t deliver. A new study shows that by the time they reach preschool, kids understand that some reasons for reneging are more defensible than others. Leon Li earned his Ph.D. from Duke's Department of Psychology & Neuroscience in 2022.“At 3 to 5 years old, kids are on… read more about Even Preschoolers Can Spot a Cop-Out »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Hummus. Chewbacca. Tofu. Belly button. These are just a few of the thousands of words scientists at Duke painstakingly decoded from over 2,000 hours of infants’ daily lives. They recently used these data to determine if the amount of language kids hear might explain why girls have bigger vocabularies early in life than boys. It doesn’t. Instead, Shannon Dailey, Ph.D., a Duke University postdoctoral scholar and lead author of the new study, found that rather than caregivers talking more to their young… read more about Parents Talk More To Toddlers Who Talk Back »

DURHAM, NC -- More than half of all women in the United States are overweight or obese when they become pregnant. While being or becoming overweight during pregnancy can have potential health risks for moms, there are also hints that it may tip the scales for their kids to develop psychiatric disorders like autism or depression, which often affects one gender more than the other. What hasn’t been understood however is how the accumulation of fat tissue in mom might signal through the placenta in a sex-specific way and… read more about Mom’s Dietary Fat Rewires Male And Female Brains Differently »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Fake it ‘til you make is true for children too, it turns out: Young girls embracing the role of a successful female scientist, like Marie Curie, persist longer at a challenging science game. A new study, appearing Sept. 28 in the journal Psychological Science, suggests that science role-playing may help tighten the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and careers for women simply by improving their identity as scientists. Frustrated by the gender gap in STEM, in which… read more about First-Grade Girls Stick With Science After Pretending to be Marie Curie »

DURHAM, NC – Naval oceanographer Carina Block had a hunch that the jet exhaust fumes she and her fellow female sailors were regularly exposed to, combined with unavoidable job stress, was leading to adverse health outcomes for their children. A new study in mice backs up Block’s suspicion, finding that air pollution along with housing insecurity while pregnant leads to autism-like social behavior and differently wired brains in male, but not female, pups. The immune system seems to be at fault. “I was pregnant, stressed,… read more about Air Pollution And Stress Alter Brains and Social Behavior of Male Mice »

The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience is pleased to release the 2020-2021 Impact Report for the Charles Lafitte Foundation Program in Psychological & Neuroscience Research at Duke University. This special funding report highlights the program's achievements, including stories, data, photographs, and student testimonials. A link to the full 14-page report can be found below.  In a statement from department leadership on June 30, 2021 Professor and Department Chair Scott Huettel shared these words:  The ongoing… read more about Department releases 2020-2021 Charles Lafitte Foundation special funding report »

Members of the Yin Lab including supervisor Dr. Henry Yin, former post-doctoral associate Dr. Glenn Watson, and current Ph.D. candidate in the Systems and Integrative Neuroscience program Ryan Hughes, have discovered a new functional pathway in the brain going from the parafascicular nucleus of the thalamus to the subthalamic nucleus, naming it the ‘super-direct’ pathway. In a recently published paper in AAAS, the team found that by selectively stimulating this pathway, movement and natural behavior were restored in… read more about Yin Lab discovers new ‘super-direct’ functional pathway in the brain »

The Summer Training in Academic Research (STAR) Program, led by Pediatrics faculty members Drs. Kanecia Zimmerman and Danny Benjamin has for many years offered summer research experiences for local high school and undergraduate students. Former participants have been deeply engaged in biomedical research at Duke and nearly all have become co-authors on scientific papers.  This year, through generous support from the Biogen Foundation, P&N faculty members Drs.… read more about Neuroscience extension to Duke STAR program funded by Biogen Foundation »

Duke researchers, led by Reut Avinun Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate at Professor Ahmad Hariri’s lab, analyzed the MRI scans of over a thousand people to determine potential links between personality and brain shape.   Although there are many personality neuroscience studies, consistent and reliable findings have not been established. While most previous studies used less than 300 individuals, this study has a large sample of 1,107 individuals. Additionally, this research comprehensively measures personality with 240… read more about New study from Hariri Lab casts doubt on links between personality and brain structure »

All Babies and Children Thrive (ABC Thrive) has awarded seed grants of up to $40,000 to four interdisciplinary teams of Duke faculty, two of which are teams from the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience. The teams will explore new interventions to support positive early childhood development ranging from tools for earlier identification of children at risk for neurodevelopmental challenges, to methods for teaching young children prosocial behaviors, to improving outcomes for black children and families through early… read more about Two P&N faculty teams receive ABC Thrive Seed Grants to improve early childhood outcomes »

Sarah Gaither, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience has received the prestigious 2020 Sage Young Scholar Award.  The Sage Young Scholar Awards recognize outstanding achievements by young scholars who are early in their research careers. The awards are intended to provide these scholars with funds that can be flexibly applied in extending their work in new and exciting directions. Previous recipients of this award have gone on to positions of intellectual leadership in the field. Because… read more about Sarah Gaither receives 2020 SAGE Young Scholar Award  »

Eight faculty members from the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience have been awarded Research Seed Grants via philanthropic support from The Charles Lafitte Foundation Program in Psychological and Neuroscience Research at Duke University. The faculty projects – all chosen by review committee – show great promise both for generating exceptional research and for providing opportunities for students. In a letter to recipients, P&N Chair Scott Huettel offered congratulations, stating, "It has been… read more about 2020-2021 Faculty Research Seed Grant recipients announced »

The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience is pleased to release its special funding 2019-2020 Impact Report, Charles Lafitte Foundation Program in Psychological Research at Duke University. The document highlights the program's achievements with feature stories, data, photographs, and student testimonials. A link to the full 15-page report can be found below.  In a statement from leadership about the special funding opportunities provided to the department, Professor and Department Chair Scott… read more about Special Funding Report 2019-2020: Charles Lafitte Foundation Program in Psychological Research at Duke University »

In the summer of 2020, the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience issued a charge to form the P&N Task Force on Diversity, Inclusion, and Climate. As its first act, The Task Force created the Stella Powell-Williams Award, using internal support to supplement selected grants submitted as part of a special call for graduate and postdoctoral research projects related to identity, diversity, inclusion, equity, and thriving. The Task Force created this award… read more about Task Force announces recipients of the 2020 Stella Powell-Williams Award »

Different use of brain circuits may help explain the tenacity of post-traumatic stress Published: June 29, 2020 in Duke Today by Karl Leif Bates DURHAM, N.C. – Your brain handles a perceived threat differently depending on how close it is to you. If it’s far away, you engage more problem-solving areas of the brain. But up close, your animal instincts jump into action and there isn’t as much reasoning, like when the guy at the haunted house jumps up right next to you. And that, according to a new… read more about New Study from the Lab of Professor Kevin LaBar Reveals that Closer Threats Inspire a More Primitive Kind of Fear »

Studies of Brain Activity Aren't as Useful as Scientists Thought, By Karl Leif Bates, Published June 3, 2020  Hundreds of published studies over the last decade have claimed it's possible to predict an individual’s patterns of thoughts and feelings by scanning their brain in an MRI machine as they perform some mental tasks. But a new analysis by some of the researchers who have done the most work in this area finds that those measurements are highly suspect when it comes to drawing conclusions about any… read more about Professor Ahmad Hariri Reanalyzes Years of Functional MRI Data »