Research News

Vanderbilt’s Humphreys awarded Faculty Early Career Development Grant from the National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation has awarded a Faculty Early Career Development Grant to Kathryn L. Humphreys, assistant professor of psychology at Vanderbilt Peabody College of education and human development.

Kathryn Humphreys

The NSF’s CAREER awards support exceptionally promising college and university junior faculty who are committed to the integration of research and education and are likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. Humphreys’ grant is in the amount of $650,000 over five years.

She is being recognized for her research study “Examining Prenatal and Postnatal Influences on Infant Brain Development.”

Her project explores the influence of stressful experiences and supportive caregiving on the developing brain. Understanding when and how exposure to stress shapes the brain is essential for advancing knowledge about long-term health and functioning. Humphreys’ research will address fundamental questions regarding infant brain plasticity and provide insights that can be used to inform prevention and intervention efforts for children at risk for stress exposure in early life.

“Kate Humphreys’ research on the infant brain is yielding insights with potential implications from child rearing to public policy. Her vital work is well deserving of the recognition accorded by this distinguished NSF award,” said Camilla P. Benbow, Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development at Peabody. “We look forward to gaining further understanding as a result of this work.”

Humphreys directs the Stress and Early Adversity Lab. She also is an investigator in the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and is a member of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, a trans-institutional entity that oversees and facilitates the extensive neuroscience-related endeavors carried out at Vanderbilt. Humphreys holds a secondary faculty appointment in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. In the past year she has published research in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Child Abuse and Neglect, Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Pediatrics, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. In 2020, Humphreys received the Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions from the Association for Psychological Science.

“Capturing the influence of both risk and protective factors on brain development during this period of heightened plasticity is an important step for identifying the timing and targets for intervention,” Humphreys said. “I am grateful to receive support from the National Science Foundation to study functional and structural brain changes in infancy.”