Pilyoung Kim

Pilyoung Kim


  • Faculty

What I do

Associate Professor of Psychology

Professional Biography

Pilyoung Kim is an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department. She is also Director of the Family and Child Neuroscience (FCN) Laboratory (https://liberalarts.du.edu/psychology/family-child-neuroscience) and Co-director of the Brain, Artificial Intelligence, and Child (BAIC) Center (https://www.baic.center/).

Along with a team of student researchers and research assistants in the FCN lab, Pilyoung works to investigate the role of early experience on brain development. Current research projects supported by the NIH and other agencies focus on studying whether the experience of poverty and exposure to cannabis during pregnancy influence fetal/infant brain development. They also study whether those factors also influence new mothers’ transition to parenthood. The research methods include MRI, fMRI, fNIRS (functional near-infrared spectroscopy), neuroendocrine markers, observations of parent–child interactions, and structured clinical interviews. In the BAIC center, she and student researchers aim to understand the role and applications of AI in terms of supporting a child’s development, particularly their brain development.

In these research projects, Dr. Kim provides mentoring, research training, and a learning environment that stimulates and supports the future goals of students. In addition, Dr. Kim teaches courses on brain development and the neurobiological and psychological basis of parent–child relationships. She also frequently gives talks to community organizations that serve new families experiencing higher levels of stress (e.g., Women, Infant, Children (WIC) programs, child-care programs, and school teachers) as well as national and international academic communities. In her research, teaching, and service, Dr. Kim focuses on discovering and sharing research evidence to develop innovative ways to support the well-being of two generations: new parents and their young children.


  • Ph.D., Developmental Psychology, Cornell University, 2009
  • MA, Developmental Psychology, Cornell University, 2007
  • M.Ed., Human Development and Psychology, Harvard University, 2003
  • BA, Psychology and English Language & Literature, Korea University, 2002

Professional Affiliations

  • Society of Research in Child Development
  • Life Course Research Network (LCRN), UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families & Communities
  • International Network for Research on Inequalities in Child Health
  • The Organization for Human Brain Mapping


Our lab's research program focuses on examining the early life origins of socioeconomic disparities in health from a neurobiological perspective. We are currently conducting a longitudinal study to examine the effects of prenatal exposure to poverty and substance use on the brains of two generations – new mothers and newborns. We use a multidisciplinary approach, including neuroimaging (MRI, fMRI, fNIRS), neuroendocrine, observational, and behavioral methods. We are also working on various projects to delineate (1) the roles of stress on neural regulation of emotion and parenting among new parents; and (2) the roles of early exposure to poverty and cannabis on brain development for emotion regulation in infants and young children. Please visit our lab website for more information https://liberalarts.du.edu/psychology/family-child-neuroscience. In the BAIC center (https://www.baic.center/), students across multiple fields (psychology, neuroscience, computer science) work to understand the role of artificial intelligence in early childhood development. Recently, our research was featured on a UK BBC documentary (https://www.bbc.com/reel/video/p09z4k1y/how-motherhood-changes-the-brain).

*We welcome undergraduate students and prospective graduate students to join our lab!

Key Projects

  • Prenatal Pathways for Poverty’s Influence on the Brains of Two Generations
  • Cannabis Use during Pregnancy, Maternal Brain, and Mother-Infant Relationships
  • Alterations in Neural Functions that Predict the Onset of Perinatal Depression
  • The influence of in utero cannabis exposure on offspring brain morphology, micro-, macrostructural and network connectivity in the prefrontal regions during infancy
  • Poverty and Mother-Infant Attachment: Neurobehavioral Mechanisms

Featured Publications

Kim, P., Leckman, J. F., Mayes, L. C., Feldman, R., Wang, X., & Swain, J. E. (2010). The plasticity of human maternal brain: longitudinal changes in brain anatomy during the early postpartum period. Behavioral Neuroscience, 124(5), 695-700.
Kim, P., Evans, G. W., Angstadt, M., Ho, S. S., Sripada, C. S., Swain, J. E., et al. (2013). Effects of childhood poverty and chronic stress on emotion regulatory brain function in adulthood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(46), 18442-18447.
Kim, P., Rigo, P., Mayes, L. C., Feldman, R., Leckman, J. F., & Swain, J. E. (2014). Neural plasticity in fathers of human infants. Social Neuroscience, 9(5), 522-535.


Kim, P. (2021). How Poverty Influences the Brains of Two Generations. Department of Psychology. Taipei, Taiwan: National Taiwan University.
Kim, P. (2020). Socioeconomic Disadvantage and the Neuroscience of Mother-Infant Attachment. Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) 2020 virtual meeting.
Kim, P. (2017). How Poverty Influences Brains of Two Generations--New Mothers and Infants. Chautauqua 2017 Biobehavioral Markers in Risk and Resilience Research. Oklahoma State University--Tulsa, OK.
Kim, P. (2020). Motherhood and the Brain. Webinar for the workgroup at NIDA on Sex/Gender Differences and Women Health. NIDA.


  • Victoria S. Levin Award For Early Career Success in Young Children's Mental Health Research, Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD)

Graduate Mentorship

Dr. Kim will be reviewing applications for fall 2024 admission.