These are the accepted Symposia Sessions to be scheduled at ISDP 2023:


Dr. Marion I. van den Heuvel, Tilburg University, The Netherlands, Symposium Chair


  • Dr. Willem Frankenhuis, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
  • Dr. Caspar van Lissa, Tilburg University, The Netherlands
  • Prof. Sam Wass, University of East London, UKDr. Isabella C. Stallworthy,  University of Pennsylvania, USA 


Transparent and testable theories are of paramount importance to the advancement of developmental psychobiology. Yet, spending time on theory formation is not always beneficial for career advancement, especially for early career scientists. It can even be strategic to formulate and test ambiguous theories to advance your career. In this symposium, we will touch upon this important theme by discussing why theory formation is important, what potential barriers are for transparent and testable theory formation, and how we can formulate better theories for developmental psychobiology. First, Dr. Willem Frankenhuis will talk about strategic ambiguity in theory formation to present the audience with an overview of barriers that are present to formulating clear and precise theories. Next, Dr. Caspar van Lissa will present a novel way of theory formation using machine learning. And finally, two presenters will share their work on theory formation – presenting a novel framework and approach to developmental science. Prof. Sam Wass will present a paradigm shift in studying the developing social brain, from lab-based experiments to real-world data gathering, and its impact on theory formation. Dr. Isa Stallworthy will then present her novel idea of forming theory by synthesizing notions from existing empirical work and more general frameworks to arrive at a new, integrative, and generative theories. With this symposium, we not only aim to share information about theory formation, but also to inspire early career scientist to contribute to theory formation in developmental psychobiology.


Tania Roth, Ph.D., Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Symposium Discussant, President ISDP


  • Heidi Meyer, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University
  • Kellie L. K. Tamashiro, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
  • Maya Opendak, Kennedy Krieger Institute & Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Symposium Abstract:

Basic research with nonhuman animals is vital to understanding the basis of how experiences encountered early in development can affect development and lifelong health. This helps us understand the brain’s capacity to change because of experience, reveals some of the mechanisms driving the development of behavior, and identifies important targets for intervention and policy work. In this symposium, we explore consequences of exposure to various early life stressors and developmental challenges, highlighting various periods in development and targets (i.e. behaviors, systems, circuits, and molecules) of adversity.


Nicole Walasek, Ph.D., postdoctoral researcher, Utrecht University, Netherlands , Symposium Chair


  • Anja Günther, Ph.D., Group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Plön, Germany

  • Isabel Smallegange, Ph.D., senior lecturer in population biology at the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University, United Kingdom
  • Sean M. Ehlman, Ph.D., Guest scientist at the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Berlin, Germany
  • Willem Frankenhuis, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Utrecht University, Netherlands

Symposium abstract: 

Although sensitive periods appear to be more common early in life, they also exist at later life stages such as adolescence. Understanding variation in the timing of sensitive periods across species, individuals, and traits is key to manipulating when and how organisms are shaped by experiences. For example, recent work in rodents has shown that social experiences during adolescence shape levels of stress and aggression as adults. These insights are informative for creating nurturing environments for individuals. At present we know relatively little about why natural selection has favored sensitive periods early in life for some traits and later in life for others. In this symposium we will explore when sensitive periods occur later in life, why such sensitive periods may have evolved, and how we can quantify sensitive periods

First, Dr. Anja Günther will present examples of when sensitive periods occur at later life stages in rodents. In the second presentation, Dr. Nicole Walasek will present modeling work exploring why, that is, under what environmental conditions, we expect sensitive periods to evolve later in life. Third, touching upon both when and why, Dr. Isabel Smallegange will present empirical studies exploring evolutionary explanations of sensitive periods at later developmental stages in mites. Lastly, Dr. Sean Ehlman will discuss how we can use big-data approaches to uncover the eco-evolutionary factors shaping sensitive periods. Dr. Willem Frankenhuis will serve as a discussant, facilitating conversation about how these insights can advance studies of sensitive periods in humans.

This symposium will bridge empirical and theoretical approaches to studying sensitive periods. Throughout four presentations we will encounter different species, methodologies, experimental designs, and challenges in our efforts to understand plasticity across the lifespan.     


Susan B. Perlman, Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, Symposium Chair

Koraly Pérez-Edgar, The Pennsylvania State University, Symposium Co-Chair


  • Tallie Z. Baram, MD, PhD; Distinguished Professor, Pediatrics, Anatomy/Neurobiology, Neurology, University of California-Irvine
  • Susan B. Perlman, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Joscelin Rocha-Hidalgo, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Pennsylvania State University
  • Linoy Schwartz, PhD, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Reichman University (IDC Herzliya)

Symposium Abstract:

The crucial role of parental interaction with the developing infant and child is incontrovertible. Indeed, during the first year of life, sensory signals from the parent/ caretaker provide the vast majority of environmental input to the developing brain. These interactions remain critical even as children mature and become more independent, as a way of maintaining dyadic connection as new developmental challenges are met. 

However, the salient features of parental signals to their child, how children shape this parental-derived input, the nature of parent-child dynamic interactions, and their contributions to mental and cognitive health are not well understood.  Cross-species approaches can help isolate underlying mechanisms and specific processes in both animal models and human studies.  

In this symposium we combine human and animal work, in infancy through middle childhood, to illustrate how bidirectional and dyadic relations between parent and child impact development, but also explicitly consider the time window of observation.  That is, by examining moment-to-moment interactions, occurring within minutes or even seconds or milliseconds, we may be able to generate new insights into long-term developmental and clinical patterns. First, we present a computational rodent model examining the impact of predictability on offspring maturation (neural). Second, parental conflict is used as an example of early adversity to examine variation in parent-child neural synchronization (fNIRS) and stress circuitry (MRI). Third, neural synchrony patterns are examined across stressful interactions as a function of maternal anxiety (fNIRS). Finally, an RCT is used to examine changed in parent-child synchrony before and after intervention (EEG).


Dr Laura Katus, University of Greeenwich, Symposium Chair


  • Dr Laura Katus, University of Greeenwich
  • Dr David Mukunya, Busitema University
  • Dr Francisca Morales, University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Bosiljka Milosavljevic, University of Cambridge

Symposium Abstract: 

Maternal mental health plays a key role in shaping children’s developmental outcomes. A fundamental limitation of the field is however that a majority of studies have been conducted in minority world countries. Addressing this gap, our symposium will spotlight some of the emerging findings on perinatal mental health and child development from majority world countries. First, Dr Katus will address some of the fundamental measurement questions that arise when seeking to study perinatal stress across highly diverse cultures. Next, highlighting that effects of postnatal depression may have subtle, rather than profound effects for child development, Dr Mukunya will discuss findings from Uganda, which indicates that postnatal depression may not increase the risk of neurodevelopmental delays in this setting.  Adding cultural nuance to this discussion, Ms Morales will discuss how pre- but not postnatal depression was associated with poorer developmental outcomes in children in Chile, and how differences in postnatal social support may account for this finding. Lastly, illuminating potential mechanistic links, Dr Milosavljevic will discuss findings from rural Gambia, showing that prenatal anxiety may play a mediating role between poverty related risk and children’s neurodevelopmental outcomes. Our talks collectively address several pertinent questions regarding the study of global maternal mental health, including the issue of measurement, risk and protective factors, as well as mechanistic associations, which provide a foundation for future interventions. Our symposium hereby bridges several of the proposed symposium topics and categories, including, Neurodevelopment and Plasticity, Cognitive Processes, Stress, Adversity, Cultural Influences and Parental Behaviour. Bringing together cutting-edge research from four recently awarded PhD’s from three continents, our submission is in line with ISPD’s mission to support ECR from diverse backgrounds. 


Heather Brenhouse, Northeastern University, Symposium Chair


  • Caitlyn Cody, MS, Doctoral Student in Psychology, Northeastern University, MA
  • Nadja Freund, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Experimental and Molecular Psychiatry, LWL University Hospital Bochum, Germany
  • Julie L Fudge, MD, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry, University of Rochester
  • Shawn F. Sorrells, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh.

Symposium Abstract:

The amygdala plays a principal role in emotional learning and salience discrimination, which are largely shaped by experiences between childhood and adolescence to promote survival in an individual’s given environment.  While amygdalar growth begins its trajectory prenatally, adolescence is a pivotal period when its maturation culminates in connectivity with the prefrontal cortex and subsequent top-down regulation.  Appropriately, adolescence also is a window during which threats are assessed differently, risk-taking is increased, and emotional regulation strategies are formed.  Developmental milestones influencing experiential impacts and maturation may differ between species, however, making cross-species comparisons of high importance.   This symposium will offer a cross-species view into how the developing amygdala refines its activity during adolescence to guide emotional responsiveness into adulthood.  Caitlyn Cody will discuss her work in rats, showing that postnatal rearing in an adverse environment alters threat responsiveness in adulthood via enhanced amygdala excitability, which may be mitigated by inactivating the basolateral amygdala in adolescence.  Nadja Freund will provide the perspective that in adolescence, developing connections with the rapidly maturing prefrontal cortex yields dopamine-driven changes in the basolateral amygdala that are important for mood regulation.  Our last two talks will provide a cross-species look at a remarkable developmental mechanism within the amygdala to further explain why amygdala responses are immature through early life and may hone during adolescence.  Julie Fudge will introduce a population of excitatory neurons adjacent to the basolateral amygdala that, in humans and monkeys, continue to migrate and sprout axons postnatally through adolescence.  Shawn Sorrells will present his findings that these immature excitatory neurons are also present in mice and they functionally mature during juvenile and adolescent critical periods of social and emotion regulation development.  Together, this symposium will delve into human and animal amygdala development as a driving force of critical periods and environmental influences on behavior.  Research will be presented from four different species and across several stages of development, consistent with the mission of ISDP to think translationally about developmental psychobiology.