March 16, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 12

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    $2.28 million grant boosts research on childhood development

    By William Harms
    News Office

    Researchers on childhood development at the University’s Center for Early Childhood Research have received a $2.28 million, three-year grant from the McCormick Tribune Foundation to support their interdisciplinary research and expand their public-awareness work.

    Begun in 1998 as the Early Childhood Initiative and funded by the McCormick Tribune Foundation, the Center for Early Childhood Research was created to provide opportunities for scholars across disciplines to conduct leading-edge research to deepen understanding of the biological, psychological and social factors that affect the cognitive development of young children. The new funding will expand the center’s work.

    The Center for Early Childhood Research’s Co-directors, Janellen Huttenlocher, the William S. Gray Professor in Psychology, and Susan Levine, Professor in Psychology, have instituted a training component for the center and continue to actively promote interdisciplinary collaborations as well as develop new public-awareness tools.

    As part of its expansion into training, the center will award several postdoctoral fellowships over the next three years.

    “If the center is to influence the future direction of the field of early childhood studies, it is important that it involve graduate students and recent Ph.D.s in its interdisciplinary discussions and explorations,” said Levine.

    The center also is increasing its core faculty from five members, Janellen Huttenlocher; Levine; Peter Huttenlocher, Professor in Pediatrics; Dolores Norton, the Samuel Deutsch Professor in the School of Social Service Administration; and Amanda Woodward, Assistant Professor in Psychology, to six members, adding Larry Hedges, the Stella M. Rowley Professor in Sociology and Professor in the Harris School. In addition to this core group, 14 additional scholars from diverse academic fields will participate in the center’s workshops and research.

    “We have been excited by the collaborations that have developed as a result of our work and the interests of participants in our workshops,” Huttenlocher said. “One of the new research directions involves using fMRI, Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging.”

    Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a technique that uses MRI equipment to study blood flow in various parts of the body. Faculty with the Center for Early Childhood Research have used fMRI to study brain development.

    Research at the center focuses on fundamental scientific questions about early childhood development. The center’s Web site at http://www.cecr.uchicago.edu allows scholars, policy leaders and the general public easy access to this research.

    Janellen Huttenlocher’s work, for instance, examines the effects of family and school environments on language development. Levine’s research looks at the impact of educational environments on the development of mathematical and spatial skills in preschool children.

    Peter Huttenlocher studies the development of brain regions associated with growth in learning, and Norton is researching language development of low-income, African-American children.

    Woodward focuses on the development of early social knowledge in infants and toddlers, while Hedges’ research involves complex statistical analyses of factors that impact academic achievement.

    The McCormick Tribune Foundation is a leading supporter of early childhood education initiatives and one of the nation’s largest charitable organizations with combined assets of more than $2 billion and annual giving in excess of $100 million.