Neurodevelopmental Research Program

In the Neurodevelopmental Research Program, we’re dedicated to understanding the way that early life experiences shape physical and mental health across the lifespan. We evaluate the influence of prenatal stress and stress hormones for cognitive functioning, brain development and stress and emotional regulation through projects supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the National Institute of Mental Health. We are also interested in examining the potential benefits of psychotherapeutic intervention during pregnancy. Our studies help researchers and communities better understand the effects of early experiences on development.

The Care Project

One of our lab's major projects is The Care Project, a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study that investigates how biological and behavioral processes during pregnancy may contribute to children's socioemotional, cognitive and brain development, and whether psychotherapy during pregnancy may be protective for parents and children.

Specifically, we study how stress during pregnancy may impact fetal development, birth outcomes and subsequent risk or resilience for child physical and mental health. In this randomized controlled trial, our researchers and clinicians provided brief psychotherapy or enhanced usual care to buffer the effects of stress during pregnancy, as this may promote positive child development in addition to improving parental wellbeing. 


Continuing With Care

We are continuing to follow our Care Project participants until their child is 5 years old. Our new project is focused on the effects of stress during pregnancy on child cardiovascular health, eating behaviors, sleep and executive functioning, and the impact that providing brief psychotherapy during pregnancy may have on these outcomes.

NIMH Conte Center in Collaboration with UC Irvine

Our team additionally explores how exposure to unpredictability early in life shapes development of neural circuits. These translational collaborative research projects provide cross-species evidence that unpredictable parental signals have long term implications for development. For this work, we collaborate with the Conte Center at University of California Irvine



Learn about our current projects involving stress during pregnancy, brain activity and development in newborns, and social support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

See Our Projects



Our faculty, staff, graduate students and postdocs have published their works in many prominent scientific journals such as the American Journal of Psychiatry, Clinical Psychological Science and many more.

See Our Publications

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Lab Members

Our team members are passionate researchers and are dedicated to helping pregnant moms and their babies reduce stress and negative emotion, and build healthier relationships and communication.

See Our Team

Join Our Team

Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Fellow

Prospective graduate students or postdoctoral fellows interested in the Neurodevelopmental Research Program, we welcome you to join us! Professor Elysia Poggi Davis is accepting graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

If you have questions about the Psychology PhD admission criteria, please visit the Department of Psychology website for more information.

Undergraduate Students

The Neurodevelopmental Research Program headed by Professor Elysia Poggi Davis is devoted to studying the effects of prenatal environment on child development. We are looking for students (from all fields) seeking a unique research experience for course credit or work-study. Students must be willing to make a minimum one-year commitment at 6–9 hours per week.

To apply for a research position, please email with your resume/cv.