HCEO recently met with ECI network member Kimberly Noble to discuss her research on children's neurocognitive development.

"I study broadly how socioeconomic inequality is related to children’s cognitive and brain development," Noble says. "In my lab we’re very interested in the time course of emerging disparities. How early in childhood are socioeconomic disparities in cognition and the brain detectable? And what are the underlying mediating factors, particularly modifiable factors that seem to be explaining those links?"

Noble also discussed an exciting new study she is leading that tests causal connections between poverty reduction and brain development among young children. In the study, which is the first clinical trial of poverty reduction in the early childhood in the U.S., 1,000 low-income mothers across the country will be randomized into either receiving a large monthly cash gift or a nominal cash gift. The gifts are unconditional.

"The ambition is large but the goal is simple," Noble says. The study will allow the researchers to estimate the causal impact of poverty reduction on children’s cognitive, emotional, and brain development in the first three years of life, the period when the developing brain is believed to be most malleable to experience. 

Noble is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she also directs the Neurocognition, Early Experience and Development (NEED) lab.