Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Studies of Early Childhood
This laboratory was established as part of a scientific research project supported with a monetary grant awarded by the Government of the Russian Federation under a grant competition designed to provide governmental support to scientific research projects implemented under the supervision of the world's leading scientists at Russian institutions of higher learning (Resolution of the RF Government No.220 of April 9, 2010).
Grant agreement No.:
Name of the institution of higher learning:
Saint-Petersburg State University
Fields of scientific research:
Fundamental and applied research in development sciences, analyses and interpretations of information pertaining to neurobiological development laws, especially in the conditions of difficult childhood.
The project seeks to research neurobiological mechanisms of early cognitive and socio-emotional development of children raised in deprived conditions, i.e. orphanages.
Deprivation is a psychological condition caused by a child's inability to satisfy its most fundamental vital requirements (e.g. sleep, nutrition, shelter, child's interaction with its parents) or its sudden loss of the comforts to which the child has been accustomed for a long time. It is generally believed that the living and development conditions of an orphan automatically improve as soon as he or she is taken into a foster family. Is this really the case?
In order to answer this question, the researchers will collect and analyze data reflecting the psychobiological development indicators of 320 children aged between 0 - 4 years old. The first group will consist of children raised at an orphanage. The second group will consist of children that have been taken out of an orphanage to be raised in foster families. The third group will consist of children who have been continuously living with their biological parents from the day they were born. Subject to research hereunder are the mediating role and dynamics of the neurohumoral, epigenetic and neurophysical changes associated with factors that are specific to a child's development in the conditions of an orphanage. The longitudinal design of the project entails investigating the ratio between behavioural and psychophysiological indicators as represented by development curves. The project seeks to study early precursors signifying development of working memory, language, and cognitive systems associated therewith.
The project will analyze how development dynamics measured using psychophysiological and behavioural methods relate to changes in neurohumoral and epigenetic indicators demonstrated by children raised in orphanages, foster families, and biological families acting as the control group. The resulting key indicators will be represented by the level of development of nonverbal skills, socioemotional state, social adaptation/alienation, as well as the level of language development and school readiness. The project is based on the concept of multiple mediated regulation of development mechanisms. The concept implies the existence of indirect links between conditions of deprivation and development disorders mediated by cascades of neurobiological events. The level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in blood serum will be used in the capacity of hormonal variable. Full genomic profiles of DNA methylation (DNA modifications with intact nucleotide sequences) of peripheral lymphocytes will be used as epigenetic variables as parameters of the regulatory mechanisms of genomic activity and the genome upon the whole. The amplitude and peak times of potentials reflecting electric activity of the brain associated with information processing will be used in the capacity of psychophysiological variables.
Leading scientist's full name: Grigorenko, Elena Leonidovna
Link to the scientist's profile
Academic degree and title:
PHD, Doctor of Psychological Sciences, Professor
EMILY FRASER BEEDE PROFESSOR OF DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES (New Haven, USA), Director, Yale Academic Skills Clinic (USA)
Fields of scientific interests:
Human psychology and genetics:
- Examination of biological and social mechanisms of human development in childhood and adolescence;
- Cognitive development of the child, including language and speech development;
- Diagnostics, etiology and therapy of autism, various specific learning disabilities (especially reading disability and dyslexia), language and speech disorders and juvenile delinquency.
- Substantial focus on popularization of science, especially among parents and special education teachers.
The leading scientist has authored and co-authored a number of books on child development that have been translated into many of the world's most common languages. Her latest book, "Dyslexia
Debate" (2014) has been widely discussed by mass media, as well as parental and scientific communities.
Elena Grigorenko's scientific achievements have been recognized with professional awards in the following fields:
- General psychology (1996);
- Theoretical and philosophical psychology (2001);
- Research of creativity (2002), developmental psychology (2003 & 2004);
- Psychology of education (2003 & 2014).