College of Education and Human Development

Institute of Child Development

Kathleen Thomas

  • Department Chair, Director of the Institute, William Harris Professor in Child Development

Kathleen Thomas

Areas of interest

Cognitive development, attention, implicit learning, early experience, pediatric neuroimaging, functional magnetic resonance imaging


PhD, 1997, University of Minnesota


Cognitive development, attention, implicit learning, early experience, pediatric neuroimaging, functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Cognitive Development & Neuroimaging Lab


Cognitive Development & Neuroimaging Lab


My research interests lie in the development and neurobiological correlates of attention, learning, and memory functions during childhood and adolescence. My current projects address the impact of specific life experiences on brain development and cognitive development.  For example, in one study, we are addressing the impact of early orphanage rearing on brain development, learning, emotion understanding, and executive functions in adolescence.  Other project topics include long-term follow-up of infants born prematurely; cognitive functions in children experiencing prenatal iron deficiency; understanding of emotional expressions in early childhood; and the impact of adolescent substance use on brain structure and function.

Our laboratory (Cognitive Development & Neuroimaging Lab) employs a converging methods approach to issues of brain-behavior relations. In addition to our many behavioral projects, we use several neuroimaging techniques, including structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and high-density event-related potentials (ERP), to address the interactions among multiple neural systems supporting cognition and emotion across childhood and adolescence. This research includes both typical and at-risk populations to better understand the links between life experiences, brain development, and cognitive skills in childhood.

Advising expectations and availability

If you are a prospective graduate student who is interested in working with Dr. Thomas, click here to review her advising expectations. The document outlines what you can expect from Dr. Thomas as an advisor/mentor and provides an overview of Dr. Thomas's expectations of students in the child psychology Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Thomas is happy to welcome new Ph.D. students for the 2024 admissions cycle as either a primary or secondary advisor.


Vizueta, N., Patrick, C.J., Jiang, Y., Thomas, K.M., & He, S. (2012). Dispositional fear, negative affectivity, and neuroimaging response to visually suppressed emotional faces. NeuroImage, 59(1), 761-771. (ePub 2011).

Thomas, K. M. & Jorgenson, L. A. (in press).  Development of remembering: Brain development and neuroimaging evidence.  In S. Ghetti & P. J. Bauer (Eds.), Origins and development of recollection: Perspectives from psychology and neuroscience.  Oxford University Press.

Couperus, J. W., Hunt, R. H., Nelson, C. A., & Thomas, K. M. (2010).  Visual search and contextual cueing: Differential effects in 10-year-old children and adults.  Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 73, 334-348.

Townsend, E. L., Richmond, J., Vogel-Farley, V. K., & Thomas, K. M. (2010).  Medial temporal lobe (MTL) memory in childhood: Developmental transitions.  Developmental Science, 13(5), 738-751.

Casey, B. J., Glatt, C. E., Tottenham, N., Soliman, F., Bath, K., Amso, D., Altemus, M., Pattwell, S., Jones, R., Levita, L., McEwen, B., Magarinos, A. M., Gunnar, M., Thomas, K. M., Mezey, J., Clark, A., Hempstead, B. L., & Lee, F. S. (2009).  Brain-derived neurotrophic factor as a model system for examining gene by environment interactions across development.  Neuroscience, 164(1), 108-120.

Hunt, R. H. & Thomas, K. M. (2008).  Magnetic resonance imaging measures in developmental science: A primer.  Development and Psychopathology, 20, 1029-1051.

Thomas, K.M., Hunt, R.H., Vizueta, N., Sommer, T., Durston, S., Yang, Y., & Worden, M. S. (2004).  Evidence of developmental differences in implicit sequence learning:  An fMRI study of children and adults.  Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 16, 1339-1351.

Thomas, K. M., Drevets, W. C., Whalen, P. J., Eccard, C. H., Dahl, R. E., Ryan, N. D. & Casey, B. J. (2001).  Amygdala response to facial expressions in children and adults.  Biological Psychiatry, 49, 309-316.