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Harris Professor probes development of social cognition in autism

Medicine@Yale, 2009 - Nov Dec


Kevin Pelphrey, Ph.D., the newly designated Harris Family Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry in the Child Study Center, focuses his research on the brain mechanisms underlying the development of different aspects of social cognition.

Pelphrey’s interests include the development of social perception, the perception and regulation of emotion, and the development of theory of mind, a crucial cognitive capacity defined as the ability to make inferences about others’ mental states.

Scientists believe that some of these capacities appear to be impaired in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disorders. By comparing the typical development of social cognition with its development in ASD using magnetic resonance imaging, eye-tracking, and virtual-reality techniques, members of the Pelphrey laboratory are working to uncover the building blocks of complex, multi-faceted, social cognitive abilities.

Pelphrey completed his doctorate in psychology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 2001. Subsequently, he held a postdoctoral fellowship in cognitive neuroscience at Duke University. He remains a core faculty member at Duke University’s Brain Imaging and Analysis Center.

Pelphrey is a frequent scientific collaborator with colleagues in Yale’s Department of Psychology, and is a member of the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program and the Cognitive Science Program.

Pelphrey’s honors include a Scientist Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a John Merck Scholars Award in the Biology of Developmental Disabilities in Children, the A. Richard Newton Breakthrough Research Award from the Microsoft Corporation, and the American Psychological Association’s Boyd McCandless Award for a distinguished early career theoretical contribution in Developmental Psychology.

He is a member of the NIH’s Child Psychopathology and Developmental Disabilities Study Section, and a reviewing editor of Frontiers in Neuroscience and a member of the editorial boards of Autism Research and the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

In addition, Pelphrey serves as a reviewer for over twenty other scientific journals. He is a member of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, the International Society for Autism Research, and the Society for Neuroscience, among other organizations.