Megan Gunnar
January 28, 2020

Social buffering is a way of describing the protective, positive effect of one individual on another. It describes the power of one person to reduce another’s stress...When mothers calm their children, what they are doing is lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increasing levels of oxytocin, a bonding hormone. It seems logical that when parents no longer serve as social buffers, friends might take over, given how important friends are to teenagers...

But things get more complicated later in adolescence. Researchers from the University of Minnesota induced stress in 15- and 16-year-olds using the same lab test we saw earlier that combines stressors like public speaking and mental arithmetic. Not only did the presence of friends not reduce stress, it made things worse. “We were blown away … until we thought about it,” said Megan Gunnar, the lead investigator and an expert on social buffering.

Dr. Michael Georgieff
December 3, 2019

Earlier this fall, we announced that the Board of Regents had approved the purchase of the former Shriners Children’s Hospital campus to establish an Institute for Child and Adolescent Brain Health...

[We are] excited to announce the recruitment of Winona, Minnesota-raised Damien A. Fair, PA-C, PhD, currently at Oregon Health & Science University, who will be arriving the summer of 2020. Dr. Fair is a joint hire between the Medical School and the College of Education and Human Development. He brings extensive research expertise in brain imaging and cognitive neuroscience, and is renowned for his collaborative and engaging leadership.

The other co-director for the institute is Michael Georgieff, MD, executive vice chair and professor in pediatrics. Dr. Georgieff’s research focuses on fetal/neonatal nutrition and brain development, specifically on the effect of early life iron nutrition and neurocognitive function. Dr. Georgieff has been the director of the University’s very successful Center for Neurobehavioral Development since its inception in 2000. He will carry this legacy and success story into the new institute.

Phil Zelazo, PhD
November 27, 2019

The main question of “Why is waiting so hard for kids?” has a few more fundamental answers...

Part of it is how their brains work. Humans have executive functioning skills—working memory, inhibition control, and cognitive flexibility—that all combine to help us solve problems and regulate our attention, explains Philip Zelazo, a professor of child development at the University of Minnesota. They appear early—a six month old can search for a hidden object—but they continue to develop up to around age 25. So while a seven, eight, or nine year old certainly can be patient, “You’re working with immature skills,” he says.

Megan Gunnar
November 13, 2019

Puberty may offer a window of opportunity to recalibrate how children who experienced early life adversity respond to stress, according to a new study by University of Minnesota researchers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“The system that produces cortisol is a powerful endocrine system whose functioning supports adaptation and when dysregulated, either producing very high or very low cortisol levels, is associated with poor physical and mental health,” said Megan Gunnar. “That puberty seems to be a time when this stress system recalibrates to current conditions offers a real opportunity for intervention with high-risk kids to support healthier life trajectories.”

Megan Gunnar
November 13, 2019

“Too often, race, zip code, and income determine the trajectory of our kids’ lives,” said Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. “This council – made up of parents, advocates, teachers, school districts, county and tribal administrators, leaders and voices from the private and public sector, communities of color, and Greater Minnesota – will help our charge to place children at the center of government and commit to prioritizing equitable outcomes so that all Minnesotans can reach their full potential.”

Extensive outreach and conversation went in to the appointment process for these positions over the last three months, with nearly 200 people applying to serve.

Drs. Fox and Kelly
November 8, 2019

“We said, ‘We need to think of obesity as a disease and we need to treat it as such,’” Kelly says. “You don’t just tell someone with diabetes to try harder or someone with depression to cheer up. These are diseases with underlying causes. And obesity is no different.”

“Severe obesity is a disorder of energy regulation—that’s all it is,” Fox says. “It’s not from eating too many cookies or watching too much TV. It’s a dysfunction of how the body operates.”

Nearly a decade after their initial conversations, the two are now co-directors of the U’s new Center for Pediatric Obesity Medicine, a comprehensive program funded in part by Minnesota Masonic Charities that unites innovative research, compassionate care, education, and public advocacy to help kids with severe obesity.

Dr. Fox
November 4, 2019

A team of researchers led by Claudia Fox, MD, MPH, associate professor of Pediatrics and co-director of the Center for Pediatric Obesity Medicine at the University of Minnesota, has received a five-year, $3.2 million grant to study treatments for severe obesity in adolescents. The grant is awarded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.

“Many people don’t recognize that obesity is a biological condition at its core,” Dr. Fox said. “A biological disease often requires a biological treatment, such as medications, to match it.”


October 11, 2019

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved today the purchase of the Shriners Hospital property in Minneapolis. Should the University successfully close on the purchase of the 10.2-acre property at 2025 East River Parkway, the campus will become a first-of-its-kind Institute for Child and Adolescent Brain Health.