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K. Suzanne Scherf, PhD

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K. Suzanne Scherf PhD

Assistant Professor of Psychology - The Pennsylvania State University

Research Scientist - Carnegie Mellon University

Post-Doctoral Fellow - Carnegie Mellon University

Post-Doctoral Fellow - University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Department of Psychology
Moore Building

University Park , PA 16802
Office Phone: (814) 867-2921

Research Summary

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My core interests lie in understanding how children form representations of the visual world and how emerging functional specificity of the developing brain supports this process.  Specifically, I am interested in the developmental trajectory of face representations because the discrimination and recognition of faces is one of the most taxing perceptual challenges confronted by people in their day-to-day life.  Also, faces are the pre-eminent social signal, therefore, studying developmental changes in the behavioral and brain basis of face processing in typically developing individuals and in those affected by social-emotional disorders may index a core set of developmental changes within the broader social information processing system.

My approach allows me to address some of the most pressing questions about how developmental changes in brain function and structure support changes in behavior.  I employ converging methodologies, including functional and structural magnetic resonance, and diffusion tensor imaging along with detailed behavioral paradigms in both typically developing populations and those with developmental disorders, with particular emphasis on autism, to examine development across multiple time points from early childhood to adulthood.  My goals are to 1) understand the mechanisms by which these representations change developmentally, particularly during adolescence when pubertal maturation has a profound influence of the re-organization of neural circuits and the processing of social information, 2) understand how cortex develops the capacity to represent and compute face representations that support multiple aspects of face processing, including face identification, categorization, and, in the future, the process of garnering social attributions from faces, 3) elucidate the consequences when psychological or neural processes deviate from the normal trajectory, and 4) develop intervention paradigms that may alter abnormal developmental trajectories in both the behavioral and neural aspects of face processing.


  • University of Pittsburgh - PhD Developmental Psychology
  • Occidental College - MA Psychology
  • Occidental College - AB Cognitive Science

Research Interests:


Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience



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