Dr. Mills' lab investigates the intertwined social, biological, and cognitive processes that underlie the development of social navigational skills. Research in Dr. Mills' lab integrates social network analysis with laboratory assessments (behavioral and neuroimaging methods), and social environmental measures (e.g., neighborhood metrics), to examine how a child's social environment affects the development of cognitive and behavioral strategies. A main goal of this research is to understand how the prolonged development of certain brain systems can facilitate cultural learning during childhood and adolescence.
Her lab's immediate research plans involve investigations of how brain development and behavior reflect adaptations or strategies children use to be successful in their daily lives. This research addresses how the demands of a child's social environment affect the development of cognitive and behavioral strategies, which are subsequently applied in educational contexts. Current projects involve investigations of the a) impact of digital technology use on neurocognitive development, b) adaptive use of mentalizing, c) impact of social stress on social cognitive development, d) development of internalized models of social agents.