Eric Pakulak, Ph.D.

ericEric Pakulak
Universitetslektor / Associate Professor
Department of Child and Youth Studies
Stockholm University

Acting Director, Brain Development Lab
University of Oregon

PhD, University of Oregon (Psychology)
MA, University of Oregon (Linguistics)
MA, University of Oregon (Russian)
BA, University of Oregon (Russian)



Research interests:

My primary research interests concern the plasticity of neurobiological systems important for language, attention, and self-regulation, and the effects of early adversity and early training programs on these systems and related behaviors. The current focus of my research is the development, refinement, and implementation of evidence-based training programs that simultaneously target at-risk children and their parents (two-generation approaches). I have been closely involved in our previous work in this line of research, which includes the development and assessment of a successful two-generation program, the cultural adaptation and translation of this program for Latino families, and the assessment of longer-term effects of the program.

As the Acting Director of the BDL I head our current project in this line of research, in which we continue and formalize a longtime collaboration with Head Start of Lane County (HSLOC) in a partnership grant funded by the Department of Health and Human Services. Working with HSOLC, we are developing a model of our successful two-generation program that can be expanded to other Head Start and preschool organizations. We are also improving our assessment of the program, including simultaneously acquired measures of autonomic nervous system (ANS) and brain function in both children and adults. In another ongoing project, we are employing these complementary measures to develop and refine models of the role of ANS function in the relationship between early adversity and behavior and brain function for attention and self-regulation.

Other lines of research focus on brain mechanisms important for language processing, in particular syntactic processing, and how these systems are dependent on language experience and proficiency. I use complementary neuroimaging techniques to explore these questions in children and in both monolingual and bilingual adults.


Another major interest is sharing my passion for science with the public. I feel strongly that an important role of science in society is to communicate both scientific results, as well as a passion for scientific inquiry, widely and effectively. I have been the BDL outreach coordinator for more than ten years, and in this position I am involved in many aspects of sharing our research with the public. I coordinate and give classroom presentations about the brain and our research to students at all levels: elementary school, middle school, high school, and university, and regularly give lectures to community and education groups. I also arrange class field trips to our lab and to the Lewis Center for Neuroimaging. To request school-related outreach activities, please see the Outreach tab on the main page.

Since 2008 I have been the co-coordinator of Psychology/Neuroscience camp as part of the Summer Academy to Inspire Learning ( , a volunteer-based camp that has had great success in increasing the number of students from underrepresented populations to enroll in college.

I was also co-producer and co-writer of Changing Brains, a video program we produced to provide evidence on the effects of experience on brain development in an accessible format for non-scientists. To view free of charge or order a DVD copy, please see the Changing Brains tab on the main page or go to:

Other Interests:

When I’m not at the lab I enjoy playing rugby basketball, racquetball, hiking, and mountain biking. Other intellectual interests include poetry, the skeptical movement embracing science and reason, and learning foreign languages. I am also an avid traveler, with favorite destinations including Russia, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia.

Selected publications:

Giuliano RJ, Karns CM, Roos LE, Bell TA, Petersen S, Skowron EA, Neville HJ, Pakulak E. (2108) Effects of early adversity on neural mechanisms of distractor suppression are mediated by sympathetic nervous system activity in preschool-aged children. Dev Psychol. 54(9):1674-1686. doi: 10.1037/dev0000499.

Giuliano RJ, Karns CM, Bell TA, Petersen S, Skowron EA, Neville HJ, Pakulak E. (2018) Parasympathetic and sympathetic activity are associated with individual differences in neural indices of selective attention in adults. Psychophysiology. 55(8):e13079. doi: 10.1111/psyp.13079. Epub 2018 Apr 6.

Pakulak E, Stevens C, Neville H. (2018) Neuro-, Cardio-, and Immunoplasticity: Effects of Early Adversity. Annu Rev Psychol. 69:131-156. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010416-044115.

Pakulak E, Hampton Wray A, Longoria Z, Garcia Isaza A, Stevens C, Bell T, Burlingame S, Klein S, Berlinski S, Attanasio O, Neville H. (2017) Cultural Adaptation of a Neurobiologically Informed Intervention in Local and International Contexts. New Dir Child Adolesc Dev. 158:81-92. doi: 10.1002/cad.20226.

Isbell E, Stevens C, Pakulak E, Hampton Wray A, Bell TA, Neville HJ. (2107) Neuroplasticity of selective attention: Research foundations and preliminary evidence for a gene by intervention interaction.  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 114(35):9247-9254. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1707241114.

Hampton Wray A, Stevens C, Pakulak E, Isbell E, Bell T, Neville H. (2017) Development of selective attention in preschool-age children from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds. Dev Cogn Neurosci. 26:101-111. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2017.06.006.

Pakulak, E., Bell, T., Giuliano, R., Gomsrud, M., Karns, C., Klein, S., Longoria, Z., O’Neill, L., & Neville, H. (2015, November). Effects of an integrated two-generation intervention on stress physiology and brain function for self-regulation in children and parents: preliminary results. Paper presented at the 2015 Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) Fall Research Conference: The Golden Age of Evidence-Based Policy, Miami.

Neville, H., Pakulak, E., & Stevens, C. (2015). Family-based training to improve cognitive outcomes for children from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds: emerging themes and challenges. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 4, 166-170.

Neville, H.J., Stevens, C., Pakulak, E., Bell, T., Fanning, J., Klein, S., & Isbell, E. (2013). Family-based training program improves brain function, cognition and behavior in lower socioeconomic status preschoolers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(29), 12138-12143.

Neville, H., Stevens, C., Pakulak, E., & Bell, T.A. (2013). Commentary: Neurocognitive consequences of socioeconomic disparities. Child Development 16(5), 708-712.

Pakulak, E. (2012). Individual differences in native speakers and the broader picture: socioeconomic status and neuroplasticity. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism 2(3), 277-280.

Pakulak, E. & Neville, H. (2012). Event-related potentials and second language acquisition. In: Robinson, P., ed. The Routledg Encyclopedia of Second Language Acquisition. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

Pakulak, E. & Neville, H. (2011). Interacting experiencial and genetic effects on human neurocognitive development. In: Subotnik, R., Robinson, A., Callahan, C., & Johnson, P., eds. Malleable Minds: Translating Insights from Psychology and Neuroscience to Gifted Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Research on Giftedness and Talent, Institute for Education Science, pp. 85-99.

Pakulak, E., & Neville, H.J. (2011). Maturational constraints on the recruitment of early processes for syntactic processing. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 23(10), 2752–2765.

Pakulak, E., & Neville, H.J. (2010). Proficiency differences in syntactic processing of native speakers indexed by event-related potentials. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 22(12), 2728-2744.

Neville, H., Stevens, C., & Pakulak, E. (2010). Interacting experiential and genetic effects on human neurocognitive development. Human Neuroplasticity and Education, 27, 167.

Pakulak, E. & Neville, H. (2010). How can music training improve cognition? Voices in the Arts. College Board.