Allyson Mackey

University of Pennsylvania

Research focus
Allyson Mackey studies individual differences in brain plasticity and development with an eye towards personalizing the type and timing of educational interventions.

What I have achieved during the fellowship

The Jacobs Fellowship has focused my entire lab on how children’s early experiences shape their learning. It has allowed me to form collaborations with developmental psychologists that I may never have sought out without the fellowship (e.g., Bonawitz, Gopnik, Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff). These collaborations have led me to look beyond the effects of stress and poverty, and to work on understanding how children’s positive experiences impact the development of creativity, curiosity, and persistence. We spent the past 3 years collecting environmental, cognitive, and neuroimaging data on 130 children between the ages of 4 and 8, and are just starting to present our findings at international conferences. We expect several findings to be published within the next year. The data I have collected will form the basis for 2 large federal grant submissions in 2020, one to NIH on accelerated development and learning, and one to NSF on cognitive interventions. The data have already helped me prove that my lab can handle large early childhood neuroimaging grants. We just began a grant from the NIH on early childhood neuroimaging in October 2019.

My future plans

I plan to continue to grow my lab around questions of how early childhood experiences impact brain development and plasticity, and to pilot cognitive intervention strategies. We plan to develop motion-resilient sequences and become leaders in bringing high quality, robust neuroimaging methods down to the early childhood age range.