link to: University of Minnesota

Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities


The Neurobiology of Poverty: Children living in poverty – neurodevelopmental and biological correlates


Thursday, April 28, 2016
12:30PM to 3:00PM
Light refreshments will be served


Thomas H. Swain Room
The McNamara Alumni Center
200 SE Oak St, Minneapolis, MN 55455


  • Short introduction by Dr. Michael Reiff, University of Minnesota Pediatrics, MN LEND Clinical Director
  • 45 minute talk by Dr. Seth Pollak, Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • 45 minute talk by Dr. Megan Gunnar, University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development
  • Moderated discussion on future directions
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We are increasingly aware that conditions in the first few years of a child’s life can influence their physical, emotional and mental health throughout their lifespans. This forum explores what is known about the life-long effects of growing up in poverty from two of the leading researchers in the field.

Seth D. Pollak
Child Poverty and the Income-Achievement Gap: Insights from Cognitive Neuroscience Professor Pollak will present new studies of children whose families are living in poverty. These studies begin with infants just after birth and extend to adolescents in high school and beyond. Using both measures of children’s brain development, as well as educational and school records, the presentation will examine how the stressors associated with poverty may account for the educational achievement gap between impoverished and middle class children.

Seth D. Pollak is the Letters and Science Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Anthropology, Neuroscience, and Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He earned dual Ph.D.s from the University of Rochester in brain & cognitive sciences and in child clinical psychology before completing an internship in pediatric neuropsychology at the University of Toronto. Dr. Pollak has been a Visiting Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Montreal Neurological Institute, a visiting fellow at the American Academy in Rome, and a Visiting Scientist in pediatric neuroscience at the Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital in Rome. Dr. Pollak’s research focuses on the influences of social risk factors on children’s brain and behavioral development, with particular focus on emotions, learning, and children’s health. Dr. Pollak has been the recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health fellowship in developmental psychopathology. He is a recipient of the Boyd-McCandless Award for Distinguished Contributions to Child Development, the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Early Career Award, as well as the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Pollak is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association for Psychological Science. He currently serves on the Governing Council of the Society for Research in Child Development. Dr. Pollak’s research is supported by both the US National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Megan R. Gunnar
Poverty, Allostatic Load and the Stress Neuraxis: A Mechanism or a Bridge Too Far? Professor Gunnar will review theories predicting that poverty and the stressors associated with it will impact the activity of stress-mediating systems. In turn, these systems help in explaining how poverty “gets under the skin” to influence life course trajectories of health and disease. She will then review the evidence available supporting these theories and point to the need for a “next generation” of stress research to better understand the role of poverty in human development.

Megan R. Gunnar is a Regents Professor and Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota. She received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at Stanford University in 1978 and then completed a post-doctoral fellowship in stress neurobiology at Stanford Medical School. In 1979 she came to the University of Minnesota as an Assistant Professor. Professor Gunnar has spent her career studying how stress affects human development and the processes that help children regulate stress. She is the Associate Director of Center for Neurobehavioral Development, the Director of the Institute of Child Development, and the interim Director of CEED. She is the recipient of lifetime achievement awards from the American Psychological Association, Division 7 Developmental Psychology, the Society for Research in Child Development and the Association for Psychological Science. In addition, Professor Gunnar is involved in many activities to translate research on early development for use by policy makers, practitioners and families. She was a member of the Institute of Medicine study on early childhood development that produced Neurons to Neighborhoods and is a founding member of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child that is part of the Harvard University Center on the Developing Child. She chairs the Research Advisory Council for the Minnesota Children’s Museum fostering the science of playful learning as a tool for early intervention and healthy human development, and she is a consultant on stress and development for the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery.

This event is sponsored by the University of Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (MN LEND) Program, with support from a grant from the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health, Grant 2-T73MC12835-03-00, and from the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration at The College of Education and Human Development. MN LEND is an interdisciplinary leadership training program spanning 16 disciplines across the University of Minnesota. More information about MN LEND can be found at For more information contact: