Child Development, University of Minnesota
Cohort Five Fellow

Academic Mentor
Kathleen Thomas
Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota

Policy Mentor
Sara Langworthy
DeveloPlay, LLC

Research Interests
structural and functional brain development, the impact of early adversity on neural circuitry, resilience, developmental cognitive neuroscience

Areas of Expertise

Adolescents and Young Adults, Infants and Toddlers, Low-Income Families and Individuals, Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

Kelly Jedd McKenzie is a doctoral student in the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on the impact of early adversity, including abuse and neglect, on brain development. Ms. Jedd McKenzie seeks to inform policy and practice with a better understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying long-term effects of early adversity. She is particularly interested in neural circuits involved in emotion processing and cognitive control, and the way these pathways relate to risk and resilience. Prior to graduate school, Ms. Jedd McKenzie graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Whitman College, where she researched the impact of poverty on infant development. During this time she also interned with the Children’s Resilience Initiative of Walla Walla and collaborated with community providers to promote resilience and child wellbeing.


Neural Correlates of Risk and Resilience following Childhood Maltreatment

Child maltreatment, a severe form of early life stress, compromises normative development and is associated with psychopathology and negative outcomes later in life. Although much is known about behavioral outcomes associated with maltreatment, neural mechanisms underlying dysfunction remain largely unknown. Timing, duration, and intensity of stressors may be critical factors that influence how maltreatment becomes instantiated in the brain. Importantly, little is known about how resilient processes can counter adversity and mitigate the deleterious impact of maltreatment on brain development. This dissertation will investigate these questions in a sample of adults who were followed since childhood, with documented histories of maltreatment. Special focus will be placed on regions involved in emotion processing and cognitive regulation. This study will utilize multiple neuroimaging methods (structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imaging) to evaluate alterations in the brain associated with both maltreatment and resilience. Understanding both of these factors in conjunction will provide novel evidence enabling development of targeted interventions.