Twelfth International Summer School on Mind, Brain and Education

2017 September 1–7

Neuroscience of poverty

Director of the School: Antonio M. Battro
Director of the Course: Sebastián J. Lipina
Codirectors of the Course: Eric Pakulak, María Soledad Segretin
Management Assistance of the Course: Matías Lopez-Rosenfeld
Program Officer of the School: Lula Majdalani

Obradović, Jelena
Stanford University, USA

Jelena Obradović, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education’s Developmental and Psychological Sciences program at Stanford University. Dr. Obradović received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota and has completed a Killam Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in developmental stress physiology at the University of British Columbia. She is a William T. Grant Foundation Scholar and a recipient of the SRCD’s Early Career Research Contribution Award. Her research aims to answer the fundamental question: Why do some children thrive despite adversity exposure while others falter? Dr. Obradović work addresses how the interplay of children’s stress physiology, self-regulation skills, and life experiences relate to adaptive functioning in family and school contexts, in diverse populations from the urban US to rural Pakistan.


Identifying key mediators of early parenting intervention effects on the cognitive development of poor children
Children living in rural areas of low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) have limited access to early education opportunities outside the home, and what few opportunities exist are of poor quality (UNICEF, 2013, 2014). Consequently, various parenting interventions have been developed to promote children’s early cognitive development and school readiness. Drawing from studies of a large birth cohort of mother-child dyads who participated in the Pakistan Early Child Development Scale-Up (PEDS) Trial (Yousafzai et., 2014), the presentation will highlight the importance of identifying unique direct and indirect pathways through which early parenting interventions can affect short-term and long-term outcomes. Building on earlier work demonstrating main intervention effects on cognition at age two and four (Yousafzai, et al., 2014; 2016), we showed that the quality of home environment and maternal scaffolding behavior mediated the longitudinal effect of an early responsive stimulation parenting intervention on preschoolers’ executive functions and general intelligence (Obradović, Yousafzai et al., 2016). Further, we found that maternal cognitive capacities, as indexed by verbal intelligence, short-term memory, and working memory, played a key role in mediating the effects of both family socioeconomic resources and an early parenting intervention on maternal scaffolding behaviors (Obradović, Portilla et al., 2017). Finally, our work revealed that resting EEG gamma power can serve as a neural marker of cognitive function in disadvantaged children from LMIC (Tarullo, Obradović et al., in press) and can potentially explain the association between maternal scaffolding behaviors at age two and behavioral measures of executive functions at age four (Tarullo, Obradović et al., in preparation). These results emphasize the need of adopting a two-generation intervention approach to fostering cognitive development in children from impoverished areas of the world.

Literature to share
• Obradović, J., *Portilla, X. A., *Tirado-Strayer, N., Rasheed, M. A., Siyal, S., & Yousafzai, A. K. (2017). Maternal scaffolding in a disadvantaged global context: The role of maternal cognitive capacities. Journal of Family Psychology, 31, 139-149. doi: 10.1037/fam0000279
• Tarullo, A. R., Obradović, J., Keehn, B., Rasheed, M. A., Nelson, C. A., & Yousafzai, A. K. (2017). Gamma power in rural Pakistani children: Links to executive function and verbal ability. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 26, 1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2017.03.007
• Obradović, J. (2016). Physiological responsivity and executive functioning: Implications for adaptation and resilience in early childhood. Child Development Perspectives, 10, 65-70. doi: 10.1111/cdep.12164
• Obradović, J., *Portilla, X. A., *Ballard, P. J. (2016). Biological sensitivity to family income: Differential effects on early executive functioning. Child Development, 87, 374-384. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12475
• Obradović, J., & *Finch. J. E. (2016). Linking executive function skills and physiological challenge response: Piecewise latent growth curve modeling. Developmental Science, 1-16. doi: 10.1111/desc.12476
• Obradović, J., Yousafzai, A.K., *Finch, J. E., & Rasheed, M. (2016). Maternal scaffolding and home stimulation as key mediators of early intervention effects on children’s cognitive development. Developmental Psychology, 52, 1409-1421. doi: 10.1037/dev0000182