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Biological Embedding of Early Social Adversity:
From Fruit Flies to Kindergartners

December 9-10, 2011
Irvine, California

Socioeconomic position is the single most powerful determinant of health and development within every human society on earth. Rapidly accumulating evidence suggests that differential exposure to early childhood adversities contributes strongly to the observed social disparities in mental and physical health, cognitive and socioemotional development, and lifetime educational and economic attainment. Studies in a broad array of species, ranging from invertebrates to human and nonhuman primates, are elucidating fundamental mechanisms by which social stratification is induced and maintained and by which socially partitioned adversities are transduced into neurobiological and genomic processes. Using new developmental neurogenomic approaches, science is poised to finally understand why disease, disorder and developmental misfortune are so unevenly distributed within human populations. This colloquium convened a world class, cross disciplinary assembly of basic, biomedical, and social scientists to explore the biological embedding of early social adversity across multiple species, from fruit flies to human kindergartners.

This colloquium was co-sponsored by CIFAR, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

Videos are available on the Sackler YouTube Channel Playlist

Thursday, December 8

Distinctive Voices Public Lecture
       Jared Diamond, UCLA, How Does Childhood Differ Between Traditional Societies and Modern Societies?

Friday, December 9

Welcome and Introductions

Gene Robinson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Session I: The Origins and Consequences of Social Stratification

  • Marla Sokolowski, University of Toronto: Session Chair
  • Clyde Hertzman, University of British Columbia, Biological Embedding in Historical Context
  • Nancy Adler, University of California, San Francisco
  • W. Thomas Boyce, University of British Columbia, Social Stratification, Classroom 'culture' and the Adaptive Behavior of Kindergarten Children
  • Joel Levine, University of Toronto, Social Stratification: Insight From a Fly on the Wall

Session II: The Neuroscience of Social Signaling and Stress

  • Bryan Kolb, Lethbridge University: Session Chair
  • Russ Fernald, Stanford University, How do Social Signals Change the Brain?
  • Michael Meaney, McGill University
  • Megan Gunnar, University of Minnesota, Social Regulation of Stress in Human Infants

Session III: The Impact of Early Experience on Perceptual and Cognitive Systems

  • Bryan Kolb, Lethbridge University: Session Chair
  • Takao Hensch, Harvard University, Shaping Neural Circuits by Early Experience
  • Janet Werker, University of British Columbia, Becoming a Native Listener
  • Annette Karmiloff-Smith, Birbeck University of London, Why Developmental Time Counts in Understanding Genes, Brain and Cognition

Session IV: Challenged to the Translation of Neurogenomic Science to Interventions and Policies

Panel Discussion:

  • Ron Barr, University of British Columbia, Session Chair, Crossing the "Translation" Bridge: How Long a Crossing Will It Be?
  • Jack Shonkoff, Harvard University, Leveraging Science to Catalyze Innovative Early Childhood Policy and Practice
  • Lia Fernald, University of California, Berkeley, Thinking Beyond our Borders: Developing Programs for Children Living in Poverty throughout the World
  • Greg Duncan, University of California, Irvine

Reception and Poster Session

Organizers: Jelena Obradović, Stanford University and James Burns, University of Toronto and Anne Takesian, Harvard University

Dinner - Keynote Address

Introduction: Fraser Mustard

Bruce McEwen, Rockefeller University
The Brain on Stress: How the Social Environment Gets Under the Skin

Saturday, December 10

Session V: Gene-Environment Interplay in Socially Partitioned Health, Development and Behavior

  • Frances Champagne, Columbia University: Session Chair
  • Gene Robinson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Social Regulation of Brain Gene Expression and Behavior in Honey Bees
  • Marla Sokolowski, University of Toronto, Gene-Environment Interplay: Insights from Animal Models
  • David Clayton, University of Illinois, Genes and Environment Interacting in the Brain of Songbirds
  • Tom McDade, Northwestern University, Early Environments and the Eco-logics of Inflammation
  • Michael Kobor, University of British Columbia, Epigenetic Variation in Human Health and Disease

Session VI: Development of the Social Brain: Neural Circuits and Neurogenomics

  • Dan Goldowitz, University of British Columbia: Session Chair
  • Charles Nelson, Harvard University, Tuning the Developing Brain to Social Signals of Emotion
  • Edward A. Kravitz, Harvard Medical School, Genetic Manipulations in the Fruit Fly Fight Club: Role of Amine Neurons Studied at a Single Neuron Level
  • Steve Suomi, NICHD, Epigenetic Consequences of Adverse Early Social Experiences in Primates
  • Don Pfaff, Rockefeller University, Sexually Differentiated Normal and Abnormal Social Behaviors and the Chromatin Chemistry Supporting Them

Session VII: Summation, Conclusions and Future Directions

Sir Michael Rutter, Kings College London

General Discussion, Marla Sokolowski and Tom Boyce


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