Mary Helen Immordino YangMary Helen Immordino-Yang, EdD

Learning, Emotions, and Expanding Minds: Educational Lessons from Neuroscience

From moments after birth, people develop within social relationships—we come to the world biologically ready to engage with other people, and the emotions we feel in social contexts shape how we construct meaning and how we learn. Dr. Immordino-Yang will share her current neuroimaging research on young adults and adolescents and describe what the findings reveal about how the emotional brain supports meaningful learning and memory. She will engage the audience in a discussion of the neurobiological role of emotion in learning, and argue that durable learning is driven by an inherent desire to make culturally appropriate meaning of one’s experiences in the world.

About Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, EdD

Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, EdD, studies the psychological and neurobiological bases of social emotion, self-awareness, and culture, and their implications for learning, development, and schools. She is a professor of education at the Rossier School of Education, an associate professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute, and a member of the Neuroscience Graduate Program faculty at the University of Southern California. A former urban public junior high school science teacher, she earned her doctorate at Harvard University in 2005 and completed her postdoctoral training with Antonio Damasio and Robert Rueda in 2008. Since then she has received numerous local, national, and international awards for her research and for her impact on education.

Immordino-Yang was elected 2016-2018 president of the International Mind, Brain and Education Society by the society’s membership ( She is serving as a distinguished scientist on the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development (SEAD), where she was selected for the subcommittee of six scientists and educators drafting a working definition of SEAD. She is appointed to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on the Science and Practice of Learning (i.e., the committee writing How People Learn II). In 2015-2016, Immordino-Yang was selected by the AERA leadership as one of 30 scholars to participate in the AERA Knowledge Forum centennial initiative. Immordino-Yang is associate editor for the award-winning journal Mind, Brain and Education and for the new journal AERA Open. She is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Cogent Psychology and Culture and Brain.

Among other funded work, Immordino-Yang is conducting a cross-cultural, longitudinal NSF CAREER study investigating adolescent brain and social-emotional development, and relations to school and life achievement in urban contexts. She is currently also PI for a school-based intervention study of the role of students’ social-emotional competencies in academic success, funded by the Templeton Foundation via the UPenn Imagination Institute. She is PI on a study of the neural and psychosocial correlates of mindsets in low-SES adolescents from two cultural groups, funded by the Raikes Foundation via the Stanford Mindsets Scholars Network. Immordino-Yang collaborates with ABC Unified School District, Manhattan Beach USD, Cerritos College, Rowland USD, and Los Angeles USD in her work. She serves as scientific adviser to several Los Angeles schools/districts.

Immordino-Yang’s 2015 book, Emotions, learning and the brain: Exploring the educational implications of affective neuroscience, is available from W.W. Norton publishers (author proceeds are donated to education-related causes).