Go Back

Photo of Charles A. Nelson

Charles A. Nelson Developmental Cognitive Neuroscientist

Over the last two decades, Charles Nelson has focused his research efforts on the development and neural bases of memory; recognition and processing of objects, faces, and emotion; and neural plasticity. He has a particular interest in how early experience influences the course of development. In this context he is currently overseeing a very large, longitudinal project in Bucharest, Romania, focused on children experiencing profound neglect, and in Dhaka, Bangladesh, focused on children exposed to profound adversity.


Elected Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2013.

Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center fellowship, 2011.

Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2002.

Fellow of the American Psychological Association

Fellow of the American Psychological Society

Relevant Publications

O. Pascalis et al, "Is face processing species specific during the first year of life?, Science, vol. 296, pp. 1321-1323, 2002.

J.M. Leppanen and C.A. Nelson, "Tuning the developing brain to social signals of emotion," Nat. Rev. Neurosci., vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 37-47, 2009.

C.A. Nelson, "The ontogeny of human memory: A cognitive neuroscience perspective," Dev. Psychol., vol. 31, pp. 723-738, 1995.

C.A. Nelson et al, "Cognitive recovery in socially deprived young children: The Bucharest Early Intervention Project," Science, vol. 318, pp. 1937-1940, 2007.

A. Berens and C.A. Nelson, "The science of early adversity: Is there a role for large institutions in the care of vulnerable children?" The Lancet, 2015.


F.E. Bloom, C.A. Nelson and A. Lazerson, Brain, Mind, and Behavior (3rd ed). New York: Worth Publishing, 2001.

C.A. Nelson, M. de Haan and K.M. Thomas, Neuroscience and Cognitive Development: The Role of Experience and the Developing Brain. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2006.

C.A. Nelson, N.A. Fox and C.H. Zeanah, Romania’s Abandoned Children: Deprivation, Brain Development and the Struggle for Recovery. Cambridge, MA:Harvard University Press, 2014.



Senior Fellow Child & Brain Development


Harvard UniversityDepartment of Pediatrics (Harvard Medical School); Harvard Graduate School of Education


PhD (Developmental Psychology) University of Kansas

MS (Educational Psychology and Psychology) University of Wisconsin

BA (Psychology) McGill University


United States

Ideas Related to Charles A. Nelson

Research Brief | Child & Brain Development

Poverty and neglect are bad for the brain — but could lasting effects be avoided?

Childhood adversity leaves tangible and long-lasting marks on the developing brain that could lead to lifelong health and psychological problems....

Recommended | Child & Brain Development

Nature: How poverty affects the brain

“An unprecedented study in Bangladesh could reveal how malnutrition, poor sanitation and other challenges make their mark on child development.”...

Case Study | Child & Brain Development | Social Interactions, Identity & Well Being

The Value in Assessing the Impact of Knowledge Mobilization Activities

On June 4th, 2015, CIFAR convened a roundtable with Dr. Charles Nelson and Toronto-area community and government leaders to discuss...

News | Child & Brain Development

Brain wiring differs in children with autism

A recent study has revealed that children with autism have a structural difference in their brain wiring compared to children...