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

Votruba-Drzal, Elizabeth
University of Pittsburgh, USA

Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and a Research Scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center. Her research aims to strengthen understanding about how key contexts support learning and socioemotional development during the transition to school and the early years of elementary school. She focuses primarily on the roles of socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, urbanicity, and early care and education programs in shaping young children’s development. She strives to conduct research that will inform the development of policies and programs aimed at improving the life chances of socioeconomically disadvantaged children and families.


Economic disadvantage and child development in communities spanning the urban to rural continuum
Economic disadvantage is a major concern in the U.S. today, with a staggering 44% of children currently living in low-income households (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013). Research finds that low-income children enter school with fewer key academic competencies than their economically advantaged counterparts, with early disparities translating into less productive transitions to school, continued school success, and eventual educational attainment and economic stability in adulthood (Heckman, 2002; Magnuson & Votruba-Drzal, 2009). Income disparities in early academic skills have grown at a startling rate in recent years, despite significant reductions in racial/ethnic skill gaps (Reardon, 2011). In recent decades there have been major shifts in the spatial distribution of economic disadvantage in the U.S., with increased poverty in suburbs and small cities, and changing populations and economies in urban, suburban, and rural communities that necessitate a more careful understanding of how the links between economic disadvantage and children’s early skills vary across urbanicities (Burton et al., 2013). With the exception of a small number of studies, little attention has been given to whether and why children’s early academic skills development is differentially related to economic disadvantage across the urban to rural continuum. Using nationally representative data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-2011 (ECLS-K:2011), this study aims to strengthen knowledge of how economic disadvantage relates to early academic skills development across communities spanning the urban to rural continuum. Additionally, we consider the roles of community and family stress and resources in giving rise to these differences. In addressing these aims we hope this study will guide future research and inform programs and policies aimed at attenuating the harmful effects of economic disadvantage on early academic skills development.

Literature to share
• Tang, Y.Y., & Posner, M.I. (2014). Training brain networks and states. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 18, 345-350. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2014.04.002
• Weible, A.P, Piscopo, D.M., Rothbart, M.K., Posner, M.I., & Niell, C.M. (2017). Rhythmic brain stimulation reduces anxiety-related behavior in a mouse model based on meditation training. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 114, 2532-2537. doi:10.1073/pnas.1700756114