Kevin Pelphrey PhD

Harris Professor in the Child Study Center and Professor of Psychology; Director of the Child Neuroscience Laboratory

Research Interests

Brain mechanisms; Child development; Neurodevelopmental disorders


Research Summary

Work in Dr. Pelphrey's laboratory focuses on discovering brain mechanisms underlying the development of different aspects of social cognition including social perception (the initial stages of evaluating the intentions and goals of others by analysis of biological motion cues), theory of mind (the ability to make inferences about the mental states of others), and the perception and regulation of emotion. This work employs cognitive neuroscience methods including functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imaging, imaging genetics, visual scanpath recordings, and virtual reality techniques.

The laboratory conducts studies focused on fundamental questions regarding the typical and atypical development of social cognition in children with and without autism spectrum disorders and other neurodevelopmental disorders. By studying the normal ontogeny of the brain mechanisms underlying social cognition and the abnormal development of these mechanisms in children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, the Pelphrey laboratory is working to uncover the building blocks for complex, multi-faceted, social cognitive abilities.

Dr. Pelphrey has received a Scientist Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health, a John Merck Scholars Award for his work on the biology of developmental disorders, and the American Psychological Association's Boyd McCandless Award for distinguished early career theoretical contributions to Developmental Psychology. His research program is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Simons Foundation, Autism Speaks, and the National Science Foundation.


Selected Publications

  • Saxe, R., Whitfield-Gabrieli, S., Scholz, J., Pelphrey, K. A. (2009). Brain Regions for Perceiving and Reasoning About Other People in School-Aged Children, Child Development, 80, 1197-1209.
  • Vander Wyk, B. C., Hudac, C. M., Carter, E. J., Sobel, D. M., Pelphrey, K. A. (2009). Action understanding in the superior temporal sulcus region. Psychological Science, 20, 771-777.
  • Cantlon, J. F., Libertus, M. E., Pinel, P., Dehaene, S., Brannon, E. M., & Pelphrey, K. A. (2008). The neural development of an abstract concept of number. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Electronic publication ahead of print on November 18th, 2008.
  • Libertus, M. E., Brannon, E. M., & Pelphrey, K. A. (2008). Developmental changes in category-specific brain responses to numbers and letters in a working memory task. NeuroImage, 44, 1404-1414.
  • Perlman, S. B., Camras, L. C., & Pelphrey, K. A. (2008). Physiology and functioning: Parents' vagal tone, emotion socialization, and children's emotion knowledge. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 100, 308-315.

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