Helen Neville

Professor, Department of Psychology
Member, ION

Ph.D. Cornell University
M.A. Simon Fraser University
B.A. University of British Columbia

Lab Website
Office: 335 LISB
Phone: 541-346-4260
Lab Phone: 541-346-4248


Research Interests: Normal adults; neuroplasticity; development

Overview: Our broad goals are to study biological constraints and the role of input from the environment in the development of the human brain. We characterize the functional specializations of different neural systems in normal adults and take two broad approaches to the study of their development:

We compare cerebral organization in normal hearing, sighted, monolingual adults with that observed in adults who have had auditory or visual deprivation or who have had different language experience (neuroplasticity).

We study the changes in functional cerebral organization that occur as normally and abnormally developing infants and children attain different ages and behavioural milestones. We employ the event-related potential (ERP) techniques and structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in these studies.


Neuroplasticity of selective attention: Research foundations and preliminary evidence for a gene by intervention interaction.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Aug 17;:

Authors: Isbell E, Stevens C, Pakulak E, Hampton Wray A, Bell TA, Neville HJ

This article reviews the trajectory of our research program on selective attention, which has moved from basic research on the neural processes underlying selective attention to translational studies using selective attention as a neurobiological target for evidence-based interventions. We use this background to present a promising preliminary investigation of how genetic and experiential factors interact during development (i.e., gene × intervention interactions). Our findings provide evidence on how exposure to a family-based training can modify the associations between genotype (5-HTTLPR) and the neural mechanisms of selective attention in preschool children from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds.

PMID: 28819066 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Related Articles

5-HTTLPR polymorphism is linked to neural mechanisms of selective attention in preschoolers from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds.

Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2016 Nov 2;22:36-47

Authors: Isbell E, Stevens C, Hampton Wray A, Bell T, Neville HJ

While a growing body of research has identified experiential factors associated with differences in selective attention, relatively little is known about the contribution of genetic factors to the skill of sustained selective attention, especially in early childhood. Here, we assessed the association between the serotonin transporter linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) genotypes and the neural mechanisms of selective attention in young children from lower socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded during a dichotic listening task from 121 children (76 females, aged 40-67 months), who were also genotyped for the short and long allele of 5-HTTLPR. The effect of selective attention was measured as the difference in ERP mean amplitudes elicited by identical probe stimuli embedded in stories when they were attended versus unattended. Compared to children homozygous for the long allele, children who carried at least one copy of the short allele showed larger effects of selective attention on neural processing. These findings link the short allele of the 5-HTTLPR to enhanced neural mechanisms of selective attention and lay the groundwork for future studies of gene-by-environment interactions in the context of key cognitive skills.

PMID: 27837677 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]