“A little bit of stress is actually important for us during development and a complete lack of stress early in life has, in some cases, just as bad an outcome for the future as too much stress.”
Nim Tottenham is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Columbia University and the Director of the Developmental Affective Neuroscience Laboratory. She is also an Associate Professor in the Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine and a member of the Scientific Research Council of the Child Mind Institute.
Using behavioral, physiological, and functional MRI methods, Tottenham studies brain development underlying emotional behavior in humans, and has highlighted fundamental changes in brain circuitry across development and the powerful role that early experiences, such as caregiving and stress, have on the construction of these circuits.
Her research on the critical periods that affect brain development has uncovered the impact that prolonged periods of institutionalized care can have on anxiety in children and that parental caregiving can help buffer the developing brain from the effects of early-life stresses.
Tottenham is a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. She has been distinguished with the Troland Research Award from the National Academy of Sciences, the Biobehavioral Research Award for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS) Award from the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology from the American Psychological Association.
She received her B.A. in psychology from Barnard College and her Ph.D. in developmental psychology and neuroscience from the University of Minnesota. She completed her postdoctoral studies at the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College.