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Nim Tottenham, Columbia University, received a 2020 Troland Research Award.

Tottenham studies the “critical windows” that affect how the brain develops. Her lab uses behavioral, physiological, and functional MRI methods to provide understanding of the development of neural circuits that govern behavior through childhood and adolescence, as well as the effects of early-life caregiving and stress on brain development.

Among her accomplishments, Tottenham showed that prolonged periods of institutionalized care was followed by atypical structural and functional development of frontolimbic circuitry, which resulted in the children decreasing their levels of eye contact and experiencing symptoms of anxiety.

More recently, her experiments revealed that parental caregiving can serve to buffer the developing brain from the effects of these types of early-life stresses.

Even as Tottenham continues to examine the emotional brain’s windows of plasticity, her work has already had enormous impact on the fields of behavioral neuroscience and child psychology and has opened up new avenues for future research. 

Two Troland Research Awards of $75,000 are given annually to recognize unusual achievement by young investigators (defined as no older than 40) and to further empirical research within the broad spectrum of experimental psychology. 

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