Charles Nelson, PhD, is Professor of Pediatrics and Neuroscience and Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School; Professor of Education at Harvard University; and a Professor in the Department of Society, Human Development and Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. At Boston Children’s Hospital, Nelson is the Director of Research in the Division of Developmental Medicine, Director of the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience and is the Richard David Scott Professor of Pediatric Developmental Medicine Research.
His research interests are broadly concerned with developmental cognitive neuroscience, an interdisciplinary field concerned with the intersection of brain and cognitive development. His specific interests are concerned with the effects of early experience on brain and behavioral development, particularly the effects of early biological insults and early psychosocial adversity. Nelson studies both typically developing children and children at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders (particularly autism), and he employs behavioral, electrophysiological (ERP), and metabolic (fNIRS and MRI) tools in his research. Over and above his domestic research program, Nelson also works in a variety of low resource countries.
His work includes research towards understanding the intersection of brain and behavioral (particularly cognitive) development, with a particular interest in the effects of early experience on brain development. In this context Nelson and colleagues have spent more than a decade studying the development of orphans who have suffered extreme neglect. He is co-author of the book Romania's Abandoned Children: Deprivation, Brain Development, and the Struggle for Recovery. More recently, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Nelson is studying the effects of severe early biological and psychosocial adversity in infants and young children growing up in the Dhaka, Bangladesh. Finally, for the last decade Nelson has focused his work in Boston on infants and children at risk for developing autism, with a particular interest in developing brain-based tools that lend themselves to early identification of autism.
Nelson holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD from the University of Kansas.