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Project Manager

I'm currently a postdoc at the NYU School of Medicine. I work with Dr. Clancy Blair in the Neuroscience and Education Lab, Dr. Natalie Brito in the ISLAND Lab, and Dr. Moriah Thomason in the BabyBEEs Lab. My work is broadly aimed at understanding how early life environments, including parenting practices and maternal health, shape human brain and behavioral development in the presence of risk and opportunity. I am passionate about grounding basic science research with a focus on social responsibility and community advocacy, with the ultimate goal of informing translational intervention-science and policy to help improve the lives of children and their families.


May 2020

May 2015

May 2012

Ph.D. in Cognitive Science

Brown University

Dissertation: Prefrontal Cortex Contributions to Learning in Infancy

Committee: Dr. Dima Amso (chair), Dr. Kevin Bath, & Dr. Michael J. Frank

Sc.M. in Psychology

Brown University

Master's Thesis: Hierarchical Rule Learning & Generalization in Infancy

Committee: Dr. Dima Amso (chair), Dr. Dave Sobel, & Dr. Michael J. Frank

B.S. in Psychology, minor in Computer Science

The University of Arizona

Summa Cum Laude with Honors

Honors Thesis Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Gomez 

Research Training

Aug 2020 - present

Sep 2013 - Jun 2020

Jan 2009 - May 2013

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

New York University School of Medicine

Department of Population Health

Department of Child & Adolescent Psychology

Mentors: Dr. Clancy Blair, Dr. Natalie Brito, & Dr. Moriah Thomason

Graduate Research Assistant

Brown University

Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, & Psychological Sciences

Mentor: Dr. Dima Amso

Undergraduate Research Assistant

The University of Arizona

Department of Psychology

Mentor: Dr. Rebecca Gomez


Signal in the noise: Dimensions of predictability in the home auditory environment are associated with neurobehavioral measures of early infant sustained attention.

Werchan, D. M., Brandes-Aitken, A., & Brito, N. H.

Developmental Psychobiology, in press.

OWLET: An Automated, Open-Source Method for Infant Gaze Tracking using Smartphone and Webcam Recordings.

Werchan, D. M., Thomason, M. E., & Brito, N. H.

Behavior Research Methods, in press.

Sensitive caregiving and reward responsivity: A novel mechanism linking parenting and executive functions development in early childhood

Werchan, D. M., Ku, Seulki, Berry. D. & Blair, C.

Developmental Science, 2022

Paid Maternal Leave is Associated with Infant Brain Function at 3-Months of Age.

Brito, N. H., Werchan, D. M., Brandes-Aitkens, A., Greaves, A. & Zhang, M.

Child Development, 2022

Behavioral coping phenotypes and associated psychosocial outcomes of pregnant and postpartum women during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Werchan, D. M., Hendrix, C. L., ..... Thomason, M. E., & Brito, N. H.

Scientific Reports, 2022

Geotemporal analysis of perinatal care changes and maternal mental health: an example from the COVID-19 pandemic

Hendrix, C. L., Werchan, D. M., ..... Brito, N. H., & Thomason, M. E.

Archives of Women's Mental Health, 2022

Perceived discrimination as a modifier of health, disease, and medicine: empirical data from the COVID-19 pandemic

Thomason, M. E., Hendrix, C. L., Werchan, D. M., & Brito, N. H.

Translational Psychiatry, 2022

COVID-19 patient accounts of illness severity, treatments and lasting symptoms.

Thomason, M. E., Werchan, D. M., & Hendrix, C. L.

Scientific Data, 2021

Miswiring the brain: Human prenatal Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol use associated with altered fetal hippocampal brain network connectivity.

Thomason, M. E., Palopoli, A. C., Jariwala, N. N., Werchan, D. M., Chen, A., Adhikari, S., Espinoza-Heredia, C., Brito, N. H., & Trentacosta, C. J.

Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2021


All contexts are not created equal: Social stimuli win the competition for organizing reinforcement learning in 9-month-old infants.

Werchan, D. M. & Amso, D.

Developmental Science, 2021

A daytime nap combined with nighttime sleep promotes learning in toddlers.

Werchan, D. M., Kim, J., & Gómez, R. L. 

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 2021


Adaptive rule learning of event sequences during the A‐not‐B task in 9‐month‐old infants.

Werchan, D. M. & Amso, D.

Developmental Psychobiology, 2020

Top-down knowledge rapidly acquired through PFC-dependent rule learning biases visual attention in 9-month-old infants.

Werchan, D. M. & Amso, D.

Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2020

The emergence of object-based visual attention in infancy: A role for family socioeconomic status and competing visual features.

Werchan, D. M., Lynn, A., Baumgartner, H., Kirkham, N. Z., & Amso, D.

Infancy, 2019

The origins of cortical multisensory dynamics: Evidence from human infants.

Werchan, D. M., Baumgartner, H., Lewkowicz, D. & Amso, D.

Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2018

A novel ecological model of prefrontal cortex functional development.

Werchan, D. M. & Amso, D. 

Psychological Review, 2017

Role of prefrontal cortex in learning and generalizing hierarchical rules in 8-month-old infants.

Werchan, D. M., Collins, A. G. E, Frank, M. J., & Amso, D. 

The Journal of Neuroscience, 2016

Sleep and statistical language learning: Insights into cortical development and retention in 6.5-month-olds.

Simon, K. N. S., Werchan, D. M., Goldstein, M., Sweeney, L., Bootzin, R. R., Nadel, L., & Gómez, R. L.

Brain & Language, 2016

Eight-month-old infants spontaneously learn and generalize hierarchical rules.

Werchan, D. M., Collins, A. G. E, Frank, M. J., & Amso, D.

Psychological Science, 2015

Wakefulness (not sleep) promotes generalization of word learning in 2.5-year-old children.

Werchan, D. M. & Gómez, R. L.

Child Development, 2014

Generalizing memories over time: Reinforcement and sleep facilitate transitive inference. 

Werchan, D. M. & Gómez, R.L.

Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 2013

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