2020 Sandra G. Wiener Student Investigator Award, Denise M. Werchan, PhD

Sandra G. Wiener Student Investigator Award, Denise M. Werchan, PhD, Dept. of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences, Brown University

Dr. Denise Werchan is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Population Health at the New York University School of Medicine, working with Drs. Clancy Blair, Moriah Thomason, and Natalie Brito. She received her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Arizona. Afterwards, she completed her Ph.D. in Cognitive Science from Brown University, supervised by Dr. Dima Amso. Her dissertation research examined how the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and executive functions support learning and contribute to complexity in thought and action as early as infancy. This work addressed a critical gap in understanding how learning is accomplished in the developing brain in the absence of clear patterns or statistics that guide learning. Her ongoing research explores how developing neural and behavioral systems that support executive functions, learning, and attention are shaped by environmental factors, including maternal health, parenting practices, stress/adversity, and socioeconomic variability. She examines these questions using a combined-methods approach integrating behavioral, eye tracking, physiological, computational, and neuroimaging methods, such as functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).