Childhood Cognition Lab

Dr. Sammy Perone oversees the Childhood Cognition Lab. Our research utilizes a variety of cutting-edge methodologies to understand the processes by which cognition changes during early childhood, including electroencephalography (EEG), eye-tracking, and neural network models. Research in the lab is guided by the belief that an understanding of how cognition changes yields a powerful knowledge base to promote healthy cognitive development in all children.

The Childhood Cognition Lab provides undergraduate students an excellent opportunity to participate in all phases of research, including working with children, coding behavior, recruiting, data management, data interpretation, and reading and discussion of the extant literature. Experienced students may also have the opportunity for advanced opportunities, such as independent research, presentation, as well as community outreach and engagement in civic science.

There are three ongoing lines of research:

Strengthening Executive Function: Executive function (EF) refers to a set of neurocognitive processes (e.g., working memory) involved in goal-directed behavior, forethought, perspective taking, and self-control. EF has a foundational role in development by supporting academic and social abilities. A central goal of our research is to develop innovative tools to strengthen children’s EF during the preschool years to prepare them to enter school. Our research has revealed that simple learning experiences (e.g., playing matching games) can strengthen children’s EF (e.g., thinking flexibility). We are currently investigating how learning games can impact EF across a wide array of task contexts.

Brain and Cognitive Development: Early childhood is a period of rapid change in cognition. Surprisingly, little is known about how brain and cognitive development are connected during this period. A better understanding of this connection can help us identify the experiences to promote healthy cognitive and brain development. We are working toward this goal in a collaborative project with Dr. Stephanie Carlson (University of Minnesota) that is examining how developmental change in neural activity using EEG is related to children’s developing cognitive abilities.

Learning and Executive Function: It is well known that good EF abilities are associated with positive academic achievements, such as reading and math. It is not clear, however, if such achievements are attributable to the causal role of EF in learning. In collaboration with Dr. Philip Zelazo (University of Minnesota) and Prevention Science graduate student Alana Anderson, our lab is testing whether children can use EF (e.g., reflection, goal-setting, planning) to guide their own learning in a video-game context. Our goal is to develop new methods to teach children how to guide their own learning achievements.