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Lisa Gatzke-Kopp
Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
  • Human Development and Family Studies - HDFS
  • Research
  • Child Development
  • Graduate Program
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  • Ph.D., 2003, University of Sourthern California, Clinical Neuroscience
Currently Accepting Graduate Students
Office Address
316E Biobehavioral Health Building
Professional Experience
  • Professor of Human Development and Family Studies; 2018 - present
  • Graduate Program Director, Human Development and Family Studies; 2016 - present
  • Associate Editor, Psychophysiology; 2013 - present
Grants and Research Projects

In my work I collaborate extensively with prevention researchers with interests in both school and family contexts. I employ a wide range of techniques in examining neurobiological function including autonomic (ECG, IMP, EDA); central (EEG, ERP, fMRI), and peripheral (genetic, endocrine) measures. By focusing on basic mechanisms of behavior problems, my work aims to inform and evaluate both universal and targeted prevention programming. 

An overview of the projects in my lab, along with sample publications from each project, appear below. 

  • Family Life Project (FLP).  The Family Life Project is a collaboration between Penn State and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, to examine children and families in semi-rural counties to understand children's cognitive and emotional development in diverse demographic settings.  This study, initiated in 2003, continues to follow over 1,200 families as children enter high school and transition into early adulthood.  Funding has been provided by the National Institutes of Health across multiple mechanisms.  The Family Life Project is proud to be a participating cohort of the ECHO initiative.  


  • The Development of Individual Differences in Decision Making.  Through funding by the National Science Foundation: Decision, Risk, and Management Science Division (SES-1150844), we developed a novel decision making task (Assessing Cost Estimation; ACE) to examine how children integrate information about cost and reward in making a decision.  This task separately assesses children's sensitivity to cost in 3 different domains: effort (i.e. "I want it but I don't want to work for it"), delay (i.e. "I want it but I don't want to wait for it") and probability (i.e. "I want it but I don't trust that I will get it").  The initial study assessed approximately 400 children from the Family Life Project when they were in the 3rd grade, and aims to examine how genetic and environmental factors influence decision making phenotypes.  Data collection is underway with the full FLP during the adolescent assessment. 
    • Gatzke-Kopp, L. M., Ram, N., Lydon-Staley, D. M*., & DuPuis, D*.  (2018) Children’s sensitivity to cost and reward in decision making across distinct domains of probability, effort, and delay. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 31, 12-24.  doi: 10.1002/bdm.2038
    • White, R.*, Gatzke-Kopp, L. M., Ryan, P. J*., & Lydon-Staley, D. M. (2018). The association between perinatal hypoxia exposure and externalizing symptoms and risky decision making in childhood is moderated by DRD2 genotype. Developmental Psychobiology, 1-13.  10.1002/dev.21785
    • Gatzke-Kopp, L. M. (2011). The canary in the coalmine: The sensitivity of mesolimbic dopamine to environmental adversity during development.  Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 35, 794-803


  • Socioemotion Development in Children with Externalizing Behavior. This study, funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, followed children annually from kindergarten through 2nd grade to examine developmental patterns of emotional and behavioral symptoms, as well as the effectiveness of a school-based socio-emotional learning program.  Children participated in psychophysiological assessments (cardiac, electrodermal, EEG, ERP) each year, and information was collected from parents, teachers, and peers.  Below are select publications from this project. 
    • Gatzke-Kopp, L. M., & Ram, N. (2018). Developmental dynamics of autonomic function in childhood.  Psychophysiology, e13218. doi:10.1111/psyp.13218
    • Creavey, K. L*., Gatzke-Kopp, L. M., & Fosco, G. M. (2018). Differential effects of family stress exposure and harsh parental discipline on child social competence. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 27, 483-493.  doi: 10.1007/s10826-017-0913-3
    • Willner, C. J*., Gatzke-Kopp, L. M., & Bray, B. (2016). The dynamics of internalizing and externalizing comorbidity across the early school years.  Development and Psychopathology, 28, 1033-1052.
    • DuPuis, D.*, Ram, N., Willner, C. J.*, Karalunas, S., Segalowitz, S. J., & Gatzke-Kopp, L.M.  (2015).  Implications of ongoing neural development for the measurement of the error-related negativity in childhood. Developmental Science, 18, 452-468
    • Gatzke-Kopp, L. M§., Jetha, M. K*., & Segalowitz, S. J. (2014). The role of resting frontal EEG asymmetry in psychopathology: Afferent or efferent filter? Developmental Psychobiology, 56, 73- 85.
    • Fortunato, C. F.*, Gatzke-Kopp, L. M., & Ram, N. (2013). Associations between respiratory sinus arrhythmia reactivity and internalizing and externalizing symptoms are emotion specific. Cognitive and Affective Behavioral Neuroscience, 13, 238-251


  • Family Dynamics. Through collaborations with colleagues at the University of Oregon, the University of Maryland, and Penn State, I have examined how parent-child interactions influence children's psychophysiological function, as well as parent-child dyadic physiological coordination.
    • Gates, K. M., Gatzke-Kopp, L. M., Sandsten M., & Blandon, A. Y. (2015). Estimating time-varying RSA using short-time Fourier transform: A demonstration of utility using marital   dyads. Psychophysiology, 52, 1059-1065.  
    • Skowron, E. A., Cipriano-Essel, E. A., Gatzke-Kopp, L. M., Teti, D. & Ammerman, R. (2014). Early adversity, RSA, and inhibitory control: evidence of children’s neurobiological sensitivity to social context. Developmental Psychobiology, 56, 964-978.
    • Skowron, E. A., Loken, E., Gatzke-Kopp, L. M., Cipriano, E. A.*, Rovers, P.*, Van Epps, J.*, Gowda, A.*, & Ammerman, R. T. (2011).  Mapping cardiac physiology, parenting, and dyadic processes in maltreating mother-child dyads.  Journal of Family Psychology, 25, 663-674.


  • Diversity and Representation.  I am deeply interested in the issue of generalizability and the implicit assumptions that physiological and neurobiological mechanisms examined in predominantly Caucasian participants who reside near major research Universities can be expected to generalize across other demographic populations.  Much of the work I have done has involved traditionally under-represented participants by reaching out beyond the geographic radius of the University.  In the Family Life Project, and our study of children with externalizing symptoms, we conducted assessment in participants homes and/or schools.  We developed a psychophysiological research laboratory inside of an RV, that was driven to schools to enable assessments.  Consider how diversity in a variety of domains may moderate brain-behavior associations, and how this should influence research design, led me to serve as a Guest Editor for a special issue of the journal Psychophysiology.  The introductory article for this issue is