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

Stevens, Courtney
Willamette University, USA

Dr. Courtney Stevens is Associate Professor of Psychology at Willamette University where she also directs the Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory ( In her research, Dr. Stevens examines typical and atypical brain development using non-invasive neuroimaging techniques (EEG/ERP, fMRI, DTI). She is particularly interested in the neural systems important to selective attention, as well as the role of selective attention on academic foundations. She has received national awards for teaching excellence and neuroscience outreach, including the Jane S. Halonen Teaching Excellence Award from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (2015) and the Next Generation Award from the Society of Neuroscience (2012).


Vulnerability and training of neural systems for selective attention in children from backgrounds of poverty
Evidence from developmental cognitive neuroscience suggests that brain systems supporting selective attention are both vulnerable during development and malleable with training. In this talk, I will describe a series of studies examining the development, vulnerability, and training of brain systems supporting selective attention in preschool children from lower socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds. The talk will highlight on-going intervention work with preschool children growing up in poverty in the United States. I will argue that dual-generation interventions, which engage the larger context of parents and the home environment in combination with direct work with children, provides a promising model for supporting attention development in preschool children from disadvantaged backgrounds. I will also discuss broader challenges to the large-scale implementation of such programs, including scalability, assessment, and cultural adaptation.

Literature to share
• Stevens, C., Lauinger, B., & Neville, H.J. (2009). Differences in the neural mechanisms of selective attention in children from different socioeconomic backgrounds: An event-related brain potential study. Developmental Science, 12, 634-646. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2009.00807.x.
• Neville, H.J., Stevenes, C., Pakulak, E., Bell, T.A., Fanning, J., Klein, S., & Isbell, E. (2013). Family-based training program improves brain function, cognition, and behavior in lower socioeconomic status preschoolers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 110, 12138-12143. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1304437110.