Early childhood adversity is the leading risk factor for mental health problems. “It’s not genetic. We can change it.”
Columbia Psychology Professor Nim Tottenham believes children have the most powerful brains on the planet. Still, she says, more is known about the far-off cosmos. She aims to change that.
Nim’s lab is one of only a few in the world that studies brain development following early adverse experiences, after which some kids struggle and others flourish. A Barnard alumna (’96), she uses neuroscience to better understand the enduring link between early exposure to maltreatment or hardships and mental health issues like anxiety and depression later in life.
She’s looking for the sources of resilience that some kids show despite setbacks and how they can be leveraged to combat the negative impact of policies, inequalities, racism and other adversities children face today.
“Nothing in development is deterministic,” Nim says. “There’s always room for hope. We want to understand how to build in more hope for kids who have experienced things that are difficult.”
Nim’s research, and other long-term studies like it, are dependent on increasingly harder to get government grants. Your support is needed more now than ever to help Columbia ensure that these efforts continue. Every dollar donated goes directly to supporting research.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences has launched Columbia Science Commits, a new, campus-wide initiative focused on sustaining excellence, advancing solutions, and supporting the next generation of students and scientists.
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