April 2020 Spotlight, Pilyoung Kim, Ph.D.

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Pilyoung Kim (pilyoung.kim@du.edu) as our member in spotlight. Pilyoung is currently an Associate Professor and the Director of Family & Child Neuroscience Lab
in the Department of Psychology at the University of Denver.

1)What drew you to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? who was an important mentor to you in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field?

I was born and raised in South Korea. After I finished my undergraduate degree, I came to the US to pursue further education in developmental psychology. At Cornell University, Dr. Gary Evans taught me about the pervasive effects of poverty on child development. At Yale, while working with Drs. James Swain and Jim Leckman, I was introduced to maternal brain research. As a faculty member now, I have been excited to be able to integrate what I have learned and develop a new research program. Thus, I may suggest for students to keep an open mind about different research topics, and follow their heart.

2) A short paragraph describing a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes you excited about it. 

My research is grounded in the developmental psychology and developmental affective and social neuroscience perspective and the primary research method is functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). One line of my research program examines the role of poverty in the brain development of children. The second line researches the neural correlates of parent-child attachment among new parents. I am excited about our current project that combines the two research lines by examining the role of prenatal poverty in the brains of two generations: new mothers and their infants. Some of our recent findings suggest that poverty and related stress (e.g. exposure to cumulative risk) are associated with altered brain structure and function not only in children but also in new mothers – e.g. reduced brain responses to their own infants. The differences in brain activation in mothers were associated with their parenting behaviors, which can further influence child development. The findings may suggest for us to consider providing support for a mother’s well-being alongside a child’s needs, so the mothers can be more empowered to create a positive environment for their children.

3) Any recent talks or presentations?

I presented my work on maternal brain as a keynote speaker at 2020 Mom Annual Forum on February 12, 2020, and shared recent work with new mothers experiencing poverty in a symposium in March 2020, at CNS (Cognitive Neuroscience Society) 2020 meeting.

4)  A preferred weblink

https://www.du.edu/ahss/psychology/fcnlab/

https://www.baic.center/

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