Columbia University in the City of New York

Feb 14, 20246:30 pm

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Brain Insight Lecture

Featuring Dani Dumitriu, MD, PhD, and Dima Amso, PhD; moderated by Katie Insel, PhD

February 14th, 6:30 pm – 7:45 pm at Online

Register Here

Nurturing Growth in a Dynamic World


The first few years of our lives are a fascinating and crucial time, filled with impressive cognitive and social development. We start to figure out not only who we are but also the relationships we have with the people closest to us. As we progress through infancy and childhood, how do the connections we form with caregivers nurture us as we navigate an increasingly complex and ever-changing environment? In this event, three experts studying early life development will bring together perspectives from psychology, neuroscience, and pediatrics to discuss how children grow up in a dynamic world.

Dani Dumitriu, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (in Psychiatry) at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, will open our event by discussing her research examining the role of social and emotional connection on the developmental origins of resilience. What happens in the brain during stressful life events and how do some individuals appear resistant to negative consequences? Healthy relationships in early life could be the key. By quantifying the connectedness between mothers and young children, she proposes novel approaches for pediatricians to consider relational health in patient care. 

Dima Amso, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Columbia University, will then present her research on nurture in early life and its importance for developing fundamental cognitive processes, like learning and memory. Nurture is multifaceted and emerges from the connections infants and young children have with people closest to them, including parents and immediate family, and even teachers or other adults. How do these relationships impact a child’s cognitive and social growth, and how can we harness the power of nurture to better understand development?

Following the two talks, Katie Insel, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute, will moderate a discussion and Q&A with the speakers. Audience questions are welcomed, either submitted during registration or live during the event.

About the experts

Dani Dumitriu, MD, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (in Psychiatry) at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, where she has worked since 2018 as a pediatrician and neuroscientist. Prior to that, she completed her physician-scientist training, pediatric residency, and a pediatric environmental health fellowship at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and was the first woman there to secure R01-level independent funding from the National Institutes of Health during clinical training. When not caring for newborns in the well baby nursery, Dr. Dumitriu investigates mechanisms of individual and social resilience across species as Principal Investigator of the DOOR (Developmental Origins Of Resilience) lab, Director of the Nurture Science Program, and Founder and Chair of Columbia University’s COMBO (COVID-19 Mother Baby Outcomes) Initiative. Her goal is to identify early life predictors of risk and resilience and develop scalable interventions to nudge developmental trajectories toward resilience.   


Dima Amso, PhD, is Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology at Columbia University. She has a BS in psychology from Tufts University, trained at Cornell University, and received a PhD in psychology from New York University in 2005. She served on the faculty at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University before joining the faculty at Brown University in 2010 and Columbia University in 2020. Her research examines the development of attention, executive functions, and memory beginning in infancy. She is particularly interested in how environmental variables shape these trajectories, and she has authored over 100 papers on the topic. Dr. Amso’s research has been funded by National Institute of Mental Health, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, the Simons Foundation, Norman Prince Neuroscience Institute, the Hassenfeld Child Health Institute, and Wellcome Trust. She is a recipient of the James S. McDonnell Scholar Award and is an elected Fellow of the American Psychological Society.


Katie Insel, PhD, is Postdoctoral Research Fellow working with Professor Daphna Shohamy at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute. She received her PhD from Harvard University, and in September 2024 she will join the faculty at Northwestern University as an Assistant Professor. Her research focuses on how adolescent brain development shapes motivation, learning, memory and decision making. She uses computational and neuroimaging tools to answer these questions, and her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. In addition to conducting research, Dr. Insel is committed to scientific outreach, and she has worked with educators, legal scholars, and clinicians to help translate basic science to inform real world issues affecting youth. 

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