Resources for Parents

P&S Event-Related Reading & Viewing

Epigenetics Changes Everything: Revisiting the Nature vs. Nurture Debate—Fall 2015 Benefit

Lifelong learning is made possible by recycling of histones, study says

Lifelong learning is made possible by recycling of histones, study saysResearchers have discovered a new mechanism that helps neurons make new connections with one another, the basis for learning. Their discovery focuses on one particular type of DNA-supporting protein, the histone H3.3, and its role regulating gene expression.

Odd histone helps suppress jumping genes in stem cells, study says (Rockefeller University Newswire - May 4, 2015)
A recent discovery reveals a basic mechanism for epigenetics, or the control of inherited traits through means other than DNA.

On histones and glamour (ASBMB Today - March 2015)
In this interview, Rockefeller University professor David Allis discusses his epigenetics research and recent Breakthrough Prize.

Vincent Allfrey's Work on Histone Acetylation (The Journal of Biological Chemistry - January 13, 2012)
Rockefeller University professor Vincent Allfrey laid the foundation for modern day epigenetics research with his early research on histone modifications.

The Origins of Morality: How Biology and Culture Shape Us—Spring 2015

Why do we Create Stereotypes? (TED Radio Hour - November 14, 2014)
Psychologist Paul Bloom explains why prejudice is natural, rational and even moral — the key is to understand why we depend on it, and recognize when it leads us astray.
Listen now.

Darwin, Diet, Disease and Dollars: How the Sugar in Processed Foods Has Changed Society—Winter 2013 Benefit

It's the Sugar, Folks (New York Times - February 28, 2013)
Opinion piece by Mark Bittman in which he discusses a new study showing solid links between added sugar and the onset of diabetes.

Defusing the health care time bomb (San Francisco Chronicle - January 5, 2013)
Opinion piece by Dr. Lustig

Dr. Robert Lustig crusades against sugar (San Francisco Chronicle - January 1, 2013)

Is Sugar Toxic? (New York Times Magazine - April 13, 2011)
Robert Lustig, a former Rockefeller Postdoctoral fellow, specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and leading expert in childhood obesity, focuses on sugar as a possible cause of metabolic syndrome, which is linked to heart disease, cancer, and other disorders.

The Toxic Truth About Sugar (Nature - February 2, 2012)
Added sweeteners pose dangers to health that justify controlling them like alcohol, argue Robert H. Lustig, Laura A, Schmidt and Claire D. Brindis.

Regulating Sugar (On Point with Tom Ashbrook - Aired: March 1, 2012)
Dr. Lustig is interviewed with Mark Bittman. Listen now.

Is Sugar Toxic? (60 Minutes - Aired: April 1, 2012)
Robert Lustig's research is featured in this segment. Watch now.

Regulating Sugar (On Point with Tom Ashbrook - Aired: March 1, 2012)
Dr. Lustig is interviewed with Mark Bittman. Listen now.

Robert Lustig - Additional Press Coverage

Stress and Resilience—Winter 2012

Pregnant 9/11 survivors transmitted trauma to their children (The Gaurdian - September 9, 2011)
The emerging field of epigenetics shows how traumatic experiences can be transmitted from one generation to the next. The work of Rachel Yehyda, Ph.D., our winter 2012 P&S speaker, is discussed.

Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Culture Count—Spring 2012

Can You Make Yourself Smarter? (New York Times Magazine - April 18, 2012)
A new memory game has revived the tantalizing notion that people can work their way to a higher I.Q.

How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain (New York Times Magazine - April 18, 2012)
A mouse that runs all the time is smarter than one that doesn’t. Probably true for people, too.

The Dynamic Childhood Brain: Preparing for a Lifetime—Fall 2011

The Child's Developing Brain (New York Times - September 2008) An interactive feature exploring how different areas of the brain mature at different rates, which helps to explain many of the intellectual and emotional changes seen in children, teens and young adults. While no two children develop in exactly the same way, scientists have been able to link certain developmental milestones to changes in brain tissue, observed by MRI scans taken repeatedly over years. 

Science 101 for Parents: How Epigenetics Is Revolutionizing the Understanding of Heredity—Spring 2011

Why Your DNA Isn't Your Destiny (Time - January 2010) This article discusses what the new science of epigenetics reveals about how the choices you make can change your genes--and those of your children.

The First Big Love: Exploring the Neurobiology of Parent-Child Bonding—Winter 2011

Can Oxytocin Ease Shyness? (Time - July 2008) This article discusses how the functioning or malfunctioning of oxytocin plays a role in social interactions, and notes relevant studies related to autism, anxiety and trust; Dr. Thomas Insel is quoted.

Dads, Too, Get Hormone Boost While Caring for Baby (LiveScience - October 2010) A recent study indicates that oxytocin, produced at high levels in mothers during birth and breastfeeding, is also key to the father-baby bond, and is produced in fathers due to stimulatory parenting. The implications regarding postpartum depression in women are briefly discussed.

Kids and Stress (American Public Media - November 2008) Research conducted at the University of Minnesota compared the stress responses in children with varying early childhood experiences—from those raised by biological families to those adopted at an older age from orphanages—with interesting results.

The Dark Side of Oxytocin, The Hormone of Love Ethnocentrism (NYTimes - January 2011) Nicholas Wade writes about how the effects of the hormone oxytocin are dual in nature—the love and trust that it promotes are not toward the world in general, just toward a person's in-group.

Body Image, Nutrition, and Eating Disorders: Insights from Neuroscience and Psychiatry—Fall 2010

Treating Eating Disorders and Paying for It (NYTimes - December 2010) Parents & Science speaker, Dr. Evelyn Attia, discusses how eating disorders, notoriously difficult to treat, may persist for years wreaking havoc not just on the patient’s health and personal relationships, but often on family finances as well.

Parental Role Aids Anorexia Recovery (NYTimes - October 2010) A new study suggests parental involvement in the treatment of adolescents with anorexia is more effective than when a child works solely with a healthcare professional.

A Parent's Guide to Boys and Girls: How Hormones Shape the Brain and Influence Behavior—Spring 2010

Op-Ed: The Boys Have Fallen Behind (NYTimes - March 2010) Nicholas Kristof writes that encouraging boys to read books about monsters and explosions could help improve their faltering verbal skills.

The Biology of Substance Abuse: What Parents of Teens Need to Know—Winter 2010

The Science of Success (The Atlantic - December 2009) In discussing the intersection between the stress response and development, Dr. Bruce McEwen mentioned the above article from The Atlantic at the winter Parents & Science lecture.

From The Atlantic:

"Most of us have genes that make us as hardy as dandelions: able to take root and survive almost anywhere. A few of us, however, are more like the orchid: fragile and fickle, but capable of blooming spectacularly if given greenhouse care. So holds a provocative new theory of genetics, which asserts that the very genes that give us the most trouble as a species, causing behaviors that are self-destructive and antisocial, also underlie humankind’s phenomenal adaptability and evolutionary success. With a bad environment and poor parenting, orchid children can end up depressed, drug-addicted, or in jail—but with the right environment and good parenting, they can grow up to be society’s most creative, successful, and happy people."

Genes, Germs and Immunity: Addressing Swine Flu and Other Infections in Children—Fall 2009

Op-Ed: What’s Your Underlying Condition? (NYTimes - November 2009) Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband write that during this influenza pandemic of H1N1, doctors and health officials invoke “underlying conditions.” But such underlying conditions are only part of the mystery of why this flu is so mild for some and so serious for others.

Science 101 for Parents: Or 20 Years of the Genetic Revolution in One Hour—Spring 2009

Books for Adults and Interested Teens:

  • The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, James D. Watson
  • What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery, Francis Crick
  • Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Matt Ridley
  • Time, Love, Memory: A Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origins of Behavior, Jonathan Weiner
  • Curious Minds: How a Child Becomes a Scientist, John Brockman
  • Coming to Life: How Genes Drive Development, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard
  • Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors, Nicholas Wade

Books for Children:

  • Gene Hunter: The Story of Neuropsychologist Nancy Wexler, Adele Glimm *
  • Nature's Machines: The Story of Biomechanist Mimi Koehl, Deborah Parks *
  • * These books are part of the "Women's Adventures in Science Series" co-published by the Joseph Henry Press (National Academy of Sciences) and Scholastic Library Publishing. See also the "Women's Adventures in Science" Web site.
  • Books by Dr. Fran Balkwill with illustrations by Mic Rolph: Enjoy Your Cells, Have a Nice DNA, Gene Machines, and others (ages 9-12)
  • Decoding Life: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Genome, Ron Fridell (grades 6-8)
  • National Geographic Investigates—Genetics: From DNA to Designer Dogs, Kathleen Simpson (ages 9-12)
  • The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin, Peter Sís (ages 9-adult)


  • Gattaca
  • Jurassic Park
  • Race for the Double Helix


It's Not Just Talk: How Children Learn and Acquire Language—Spring 2008

Foundations for a New Science of Learning Andrew N. Meltzoff, Patricia K. Kuhl, Javier Movellan, and Terrence J. Sejnowski Science 17 July 2009: 284-288.

Children Under Stress: Vulnerability and Resiliency in the Developing Brain—Fall 2007

Effects of stress on the developing brain(Dana Foundation Progress Report - March 2011) The recent debate in the popular press about “Tiger Mom” parenting is a timely sidebar to the exceptional progress occurring in research on development of the human brain and behavior: studies of infants and mothers are drawing a clear picture of the singular importance of early life experiences for the future adult.

Buildingthe Brain's Air Traffic Control System: How Early Experiences Shape the Development of Executive Function (Center on the Developing Child - Working Paper 11)

Articles of Interest to Parents

New Yorker logo

The Terrible Teens: What's Wrong With Them?
In adolescence, the brain is wired to experience pleasure more intensely than before of after, which may contribute to the increase in teen-agers' risk-taking behavior.

Independent logo

Genetic Switch Left In ‘On’ Position Identified By Scientists As Likely Cause Of Autism In Children
Scientists studying the cells of a child with autism found that a key enzyme needed for the developing brain seems to be permanently switched on rather than being able to be switched on and off at different times of normal brain development.

Space Coast Daily logo

Infant Language Learning Linked to Social Interaction
New research from the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington suggests that infants develop language skills more efficiently by social interaction than by watching TV.

Coaxing Children With Selective Mutism to Find Their Voices
Scientists are using intensive, weeklong immersion programs in which selectively-mute children are put through a variety of exercises to practice what frightens them most.

Guinea Pigs Are Austic Child's Best Friend
When playing with guinea pigs at school, children with autism spectrum disorders are more eager to attend, display more interactive social behavior and become less anxious.

The Benefits of Fidgeting for Students with ADHD
Research shows that children with ADHD perform better on cognitive tasks when allowed to fidget or move more freely than is typically allowed in many classrooms.

Parents’Prudent Ways to Fight Childhood Obesity
A cost-benefit analysis of ways to reduce childhood obesity, conducted by The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and eliminating the tax subsidy on TV advertising to children were the most optimal.

Moms, Let Dad Be Dad
According to new research, the goofy teasing and hyper play that characterizes Dads' interactions with their children is actually important for the child's social and emotional development.

Parents’ Denial Fuels Childhood Obesity Epidemic
Despite widespread publicity about the obesity epidemic, parents increasingly seem to be a turning a blind eye as their children put on pounds.

Kindergartens Ringing the Bell for Play Inside the Classroom
Concerned that kindergarten has become overly academic in recent years, a school district in Maryland is developing a new curriculum for 5-year-olds that emphasizes play as an important tool for learning.

Anxious Students Strain College Mental Health Centers
Anxiety has now surpassed depression as the most common mental health diagnosis among college students, and schools are working to meet the growing need for mental health services.

Teen Researchers Defend Media Multitasking
Two high-school seniors analyzed more than 400 adolescents and found that although most teens perform better when focusing on a single task, those who are “high media multitaskers” performed better when working with distractions like music and e-mail.

How Exercise Can Boost Young Brains
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found exercise improved children’s executive functions, which help control mental multitasking, maintain concentration, and inhibit inappropriate responses to mental stimuli.

Cool at 13, Adrift at 23
A new study that followed risk-taking, socially precocious cool kids from age 13 found that in high school their social status often plummeted, and they began struggling in many ways.

Little Children and Already Acting Mean
Relational aggression in very young children is discussed; it is a relatively new term in psychology, devised to distinguish it from physical aggression.

Early Treatment Is Found to Clear H.I.V. in a 2nd Baby
A second child born with AIDS and treated with three powerful antivirals has been declared HIV negative, sparking the launch of a clinical trial in which 50 babies who are born infected will be put on drugs within 48 hours.

Raising Children With an Attitude of Gratitude
A field of research on gratitude in kids is emerging, and early findings show that kids who literally count their blessings show concrete benefits.

The Tests That Babies Need
There are now more than 50 disorders that can be picked up through phenylketonuria, or PKU, screening, 31 of which comprise the “core conditions” of the government’s Recommended Uniform Screening Panel, including critical congenital heart disorder.

What Science Hopes to Learn From a Baby’s Cries
Researchers at Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital in Providence have devised a computer program to help analyze a baby’s cries for clues to later developmental and neurological conditions.

ADHD Drugs Don’t Boost Kids’ Grades
A growing body of research finds that in the long run, achievement scores, grade-point averages or the likelihood of repeating a grade generally aren’t any different in kids with ADHD who take medication compared with those who don’t.

Robot Aids in Therapy for Autistic Children
Results from a new study found that kids improved their conversation skills more when interacting with a two-foot tall-robot therapist, compared with sessions with a human therapist alone.

Children on Track for a Heart Attack
With more and more children suffering from accelerated aging caused by hardening arteries, new study suggests there is a simple way to assess a child’s arterial health with a calculation based on the ratio of triglycerides to HDL, or good cholesterol.

Study Ties Autism Risk to Creases in Placenta
A new study, which analyzed placentas from 217 births, found that in families at high genetic risk for having an autistic child, placentas were significantly more likely to have abnormal folds and creases.

Playing for All Kinds of Possibilities
In the last 25 years or so, researchers have developed the notion that childhood play is tied to both neuroscience and human evolution – it is essential not just to individual development, but to humanity’s unusual ability to inhabit, exploit and change the environment.

Live Music’s Charms, Soothing Premature Hearts
Research led by Beth Israel Medical Center found that live music, played or sung, helped to slow infants’ heartbeats, calm their breathing, improve sucking behaviors important for feeding, aid sleep and promote states of quiet alertness.

The Power of Talking to Your Baby
With new evidence supporting the notion that success in school starts before kindergarten, consensus is gathering on the idea that the key to early learning is talking — specifically, a child’s exposure to language spoken by parents and caretakers from birth to age 3.

New Guidelines Call for Broad Changes in Science Education
New voluntary guidelines known as the Next Generation Science Standards call for more science in middle school, more hands-on learning opportunities, and commitments to teach evolution and global warming

Tough Calls on Prenatal Tests
Four companies, including a unit of Illumina, are vying for a booming market for tests that examine traces of fetal DNA in the mother’s bloodstream for signs of Down syndrome, but their rapid rollout has raised fears that poorly understood results could lead to confusion in high-risk pregnancies.

The Child, the Tablet and the Developing Mind
While little is known about the effects on children who grow up using smart phones and tablets, scientists suggest that too much childhood interaction with the touch screen could hinder the development of certain interpersonal communications skills.

Tougher Rules Advised for Athletes After Concussion
Amid mounting evidence about risks of long-term damage to the brain after concussion, the American Academy of Neurology released new guidelines calling for athletes to be removed from play immediately if a concussion is suspected—and kept out until they have been assessed by a medical expert and symptoms are gone.

Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School
Two forthcoming studies found that while learning from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution.

The Stories That Bind Us
Myth-shattering research has reshaped our understanding of what makes a happy, effective, resilient family, and reveals that the single most important thing we can do may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.

Why Are Our Kids Useless? Because We’re Smart
Humans have a much larger brain than other primates, and the amount of time it takes to train them lies at the root of why childhood lasts so long and children are far more helpless on their own in comparison to their ape cousins.)

Finding the Just-Right Level of Self-Esteem for a Child
A wave of recent research has pointed to the risks of overpraising a child, and psychologists are creating a deeper and more nuanced understanding of self-esteem where it can actually be good for kids to have low self-esteem, at least temporarily.

Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure While Others Fall Apart?
Scientists think bouts of panic in stressful situations can be traced to genetics. But don’t freak out. Biology is not necessarily destiny.

The Psych Approach
There are strong links between our childhood experiences and adult lives. The emotional basis of success should have a bigger role in education.

Why Fathers Really Matter
Modern biology is making it clearer by the day that a man’s health and well-being have a measurable impact on his future children’s health and happiness.

Father’s Age Is Linked to Risk of Autism and Schizophrenia
Random genetic mutations in children that become more numerous with advancing paternal age may account for as many as 30 percent of autism cases, researchers reported.

Even A Few Years Of Music Training Benefits The Brain
Keep up those piano lessons! Researchers found that even just a few years of musical training in childhood can benefit the brain in terms of sound perception and production, which can also affect foreign language learning.

Opinion: Raising Successful Children
Madeline Levine, author of the new book “Teach Your Children Well,” explores how unecessary intervention makes your child feel bad about himself (if he’s young) or angry at you (if he’s a teenager.)

Flummoxed by Failure—or Focused?
Many people think of intelligence as static: you are born with lots of brains, very few, or somewhere in between, and that quantum of intelligence largely determines how well you do in school and in life.  A study by psychologists from Columbia and Stanford supports a different point of view.

Mom Was Right: Go Outside
Young children are increasingly shunning outdoor recreation, even as scientists outline the mental benefits of spending time in natural settings, writes Jonah Lehrer.

How to Handle Little Liars
Lying is a milestone of normal child development and starts as early as age 2. Researchers are taking a new interest in children's lying, using experimental techniques to explore its role in cognitive and moral development and applying the knowledge to court cases and investigations of bullying and other problems.

TV On in the Background? It's Still Bad for Kids
"Too much television can be detrimental for kids’ development, even when they’re not plopped directly in front of the screen. And your kids might be getting more exposure to such background TV than you think, a new study finds."

Puberty Before Age 10: A New ‘Normal’?
In recent years, parents and researchers have noticed that an increasing number of young girls are developing the first signs of puberty at younger and younger ages, sparking debate over the definition of “normal” puberty the health implications of such changes.

What’s Wrong With the Teenage Mind?
Children today reach puberty earlier and adulthood later, resulting in profound biological and chemical changes in adolescence; research from B.J. Casey’s lab at Cornell University suggests that the reward centers of the adolescent brain are much more active than those of either children or adults.

The Two Year Window
The new science of babies and brains—and how it could revolutionize the fight against poverty. P&S Faculty Advisor, Bruce McEwen, is quoted.

At Elite Schools, Easing Up a Bit on Homework
Armed with neuroscience, self-analysis and common sense, some of New York City’s most competitive high schools, famed for their Marine-like mentality when it comes to homework, have begun to lighten the load to address student stress.

As Brain Changes, So Can IQ
A new study suggests that a young person's intelligence measure isn't as fixed as once thought; a teenager’s IQ can rise or fall as many as 20 points in just a few years.

Occupy the Classroom
Want to close the equality gap? Providing early childhood education would be a great place to start, and it might even pay for itself.

Teenage Brains
A scientific look into the teen brain tries to explain, in terms of evolutionary theory, why unique features of adolescent thinking and behavior have persisted throughout history. Past P&S presenter, B.J. Casey, is quoted.

Well: School Curriculum Falls Short on Bigger Lessons
Many child development experts worry that the ever-growing emphasis on academic performance means many children aren’t developing life skills like motivation, focus and resilience, predictors of long-term success.

Link in Autism, Brain Size
Children with autism have larger brains than children without the disorder, and the growth appears to occur before age 2, according to a new study.

Is Sugar Toxic?
Robert Lustig, a former Rockefeller Postdoctoral fellow, specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and leading expert in childhood obesity, focuses on sugar as a possible cause of metabolic syndrome, which is linked to heart disease, cancer, and other disorders.

As Little Girls and Boys Grow, They Think Alike
Although boys' and girls' brains show differences around age 10, during puberty key parts of their brains become more similar, according to recent research.

The Poverty Clinic: Can a stressful childhood make you a sick adult?
Dr. Nadine Burke, head of a free clinic in San Francisco, conducts research on the effect that adverse childhood experiences and traumatic social factors have on adult health. Rockefeller scientist, Bruce McEwen, and his research on the physiological effects of stress are mentioned

Small Child, Big Worries
Depression is not just for grownups. Scientists are discovering that infants and toddlers can develop some very adult mental illnesses.

On the Left Hand, There Are No Easy Answers
The riddle of why about 10 percent of people are born with the left-dominant variety of this essentially human asymmetry remains.

Germ Exposure Reduces Asthma Risk
Recent studies indicate that children living on farms may have a lower risk of asthma than children who don't because they are surrounded by a greater variety of germs.

The Case for Play
An in depth exploration of the science of play and its potential short- and long-term benefits to the developing mind.

Monkey Behavior May Provide Clues to Autism
A chance discovery of a macaque behavior may lead to new insights into a link between infant behavioral imitation and autism. Bruce McEwen of RU is quoted.

Study: Sleep Off Those Extra Pounds, Kids
A new study has shown that a lack of shuteye over the weekend could be piling extra weight on American children, a sixth of whom are already obese. Bruce McEwen is quoted, and his research – separate from the study – is discussed.

To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test
Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D.
The Rockefeller University

Parents & Science
Faculty Advisor

Bruce S. McEwen, Ph.D.
Alfred E. Mirsky Professor
Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch
Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology

Parents & Science Leadership


Daniella Lipper Coules
Talbott Simonds

Steering Committee

Rebecca Anikstein
John Bernstein
Charles W. Caulkins
Karen de Saint Phalle
Blair Pillsbury Enders
Wendy Ettinger
Kathy Heinzelman
Tania Neild, Ph.D.
Ilona Nemeth
Marean Pompidou
Courtney Smith Rae
Kimberly Kravis Schulhof
Roxy Zajac

Scientific Advisory Council

Evelyn Attia, M.D.
BJ Casey, Ph.D.
Myron Hofer, M.D.
Ilene Sackler Lefcourt
Margaret McCarthy, Ph.D.
Richard Nisbett, Ph.D.
Michael Thompson, Ph.D.

Facebook Twitter YouTube LinkedInInstagram Icon Rockefeller University intranet