Silvia Bunge

Dr. Silvia Bunge is Associate Professor, Vice Chair, and  Head Graduate Advisor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, and an Associate Professor and Executive Committee Member in the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. Other affiliations at UC Berkeley include the Institute of Human Development and the Research in Cognition and Mathematics Education program. Prof. Bunge is also one of 11 members of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and a founding member of the Frontiers of Innovation initiative.

Prof. Bunge directs the Building Blocks of Cognition Laboratory, which draws from the fields of cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, and education research. Researchers in the laboratory examine 1) neural mechanisms, 2) developmental changes, 3) negative and positive environmental influences, and 4) neural plasticity in cognitive control and reasoning skills. The lab has also began to explore the link between strong reasoning skills in childhood and mathematics achievement.

Participants in our studies include healthy individuals between the ages of 6 and 35, as well as children and adolescents with focal brain damage or Tourette Syndrome. The lab collaborates with clinicians at Children’s Hospital Oakland and the Department of Neurology at UCSF, and has collaborated with several East Bay schools.

Measures used in the lab include cognitive measures carefully designed in the lab, standardized assessments of cognitive function and academic performance, eyetracking, and various measures of brain structure (cortical thickness, white matter integrity) and brain function (activation profiles, functional connectivity). Experimental approaches include longitudinal data collection, development and assessment of cognitive interventions, structural equation modeling, etc.

Through her research and public service, Prof. Bunge seeks to promote academic readiness among children at risk for school failure. She and colleagues at UC Berkeley and the Children’s Hospital Oakland have recently established the UC Berkeley & Children’s Hospital Oakland C.H.I.L.D. Research Center. A full 70% of the children at Children’s Hospital Oakland (CHO) are on Medicaid. Further, CHO treats many patients with Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury (PABI). PABI is said to be the leading cause of death and disability for children and young adults in the United States (ref: Sarah Jane Brain Project). Thus, the overarching aim of this UCB-CHO partnership is to study how the course of brain development is altered, for the better or for the worse, by environmental factors and/or by early brain injury.