Our research on the neurobiology of social relationship is multi-disciplinary, behavior-based, and process-bound; studies are informed by developmental models and neuroscience methods and often involve longitudinal follow-up from infancy. We focus on neurobiological systems that underpin human attachments, particularly the oxytocin system and the brain basis of caregiving and social bonding, and address processes of biobehavioral synchrony by which natural social moments translate into meaningful human relationships.  In several longitudinal projects we examine how early relationships and their neurobiology shape human infants’ social abilities, stress and affiliation systems, social brain maturation, regulatory processes, and the capacity to form intimate bonds throughout life. We study both maternal and paternal contributions to infants’ social and neural development across childhood.

A special focus of our work is untangling resilience.  We follow four cohorts from birth to adolescence/young adulthood, including a healthy cohort and three high-risk cohorts: premature infants, infants exposed to maternal depression, and infants growing up in contexts of chronic trauma.

Each cohort represents specific disruptions to the parent-infant bond and affords a unique window on resilience.  Such parallel cohorts utilizing the same experimental paradigms can specify how alterations in the expected early environment impact long-term outcome and how the neurobiology of affiliation provides pathway of resilience.

Our work builds on careful behavior observations, combined with brain imaging using fMRI, MEG, and hyperscanning EEG, hormonal analysis, psychophysiology, genetic and epigenetic techniques, and gut microbiome.  Our lab includes a hormonal and molecular unit that specializes in assays of multiple hormones from various fractions in humans.

Our empirical studies inform the construction of targeted interventions. These include relationship-based psychotherapy for children and families, touch-based interventions (Kangaroo Care), and dialogue-based intervention for youth growing up amidst intractable conflict.

Neurobiology of Human Attachment

Neurobiology of Human Attachment

Mothers, Fathers, Couples, and Friends
Parent-Child Relationship.In multiples studies we focus on mothering, fathering, coparenting, and family relationships in healthy families...

Trauma

Chronic Early Trauma & its Sequalae

We examine how exposure to chronic early trauma increases psychopathology, augments stress, and impacts brain functioning across, by following children exposed to war-related trauma. We follow children living in Sderot...

Maternal Depression & its long term impact

Maternal Depression & its Long-Term Impact

Maternal depression impacts about 15% of women in industrial societies and carries measurable effects on infant development. In several studies...

Premature birth & the role of touch

Premature Birth & the Role of Touch

Infants born prematurely are deprived of the mother's bodily contact and its provisions. We follow children born prematurely from birth to young adulthood...

Neuroscience of Empathy

The Neuroscience of Empathy & Inter-Group Conflict

We examine the neurobiological basis of human empathy in children, adolescence, and adults and address behavioral aspects of cognitive and affective empathy across multiple ...

Hormonal & molecular biology lab

Our hormonal and molecular biology lab, directed by Dr. Orna Zagoory-Sharon, is well-equipped to conduct cutting-edge neuroendocrine and molecular biology...

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