La Follette School Professor Bobbi Wolfe will present her emerging research with Psychology Professor Seth Pollak during Neuroscience, Poverty, and Policy – a public presentation in Milwaukee on March 8. Wolfe and Pollak will discuss the potential of brain research to inform public policy that improves opportunities for children in low-income families.
Their research published in 2015 suggests that specific brain structures tied to processes critical for learning and educational functioning are vulnerable to the environmental circumstances of poverty, such as stress, limited stimulation, and nutrition (JAMA Pediatrics, Sept. 2015).
With funding from the Herb Kohl Public Service Research Competition, Wolfe and Pollak also hosted an academic workshop on the topic with 15 neuroscience and policy scholars in September 2017.
Wolfe’s research broadly focuses on poverty and health issues, including projects examining whether housing voucher and public housing programs lead to better school performance of children in the household. Wolfe is the Richard A. Easterlin Professor of Economics, Population Health Sciences, and Public Affairs, and she has authored 110 peer-reviewed journal articles, dozens of book chapters and papers, and seven books.
Pollak, the Letters and Science Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Professor of Neuroscience, Pediatrics, and Anthropology, studies how the brain is shaped and refined by children’s early social experiences. He investigates this fundamental developmental question by focusing on children who have endured social environments that are not expected for our species.
Wolfe and Pollak are affilates of UW-Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty.