Suzy Scherf



Associate Professor of Psychology
SSRI Co-Funded Faculty
Accepting graduate students for fall 2024
Preferred Pronouns: she/her/hers
113 Moore Building University Park, Pa 16802
(814) 867-2921


PhD, University of Pittsburgh, 2003
MA, Psychology, Occidental College, 1997
AB, Cognitive Science, Occidental College, 1993

Professional Bio


Link to CV: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1R3uulkGx1QGaz9SLq5J6MwhylD47t8HkQQDoOG7sxBU/edit


Research Interests

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.


Recent Publications

  1. *Benda, M. S., & Scherf, K. S. (2020). The Complex Emotion Expression Database: A validated stimulus set of trained actors. PloS One, 15(2), e0228248. The Complex Emotion Expression Database: A validated stimulus set of trained actors


  1. *Dai, J., Scherf, K. S. (2019). Puberty and functional brain development in humans: convergence in findings? Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 39, 100690. Puberty and functional brain development in humans: Convergence in findings?


  1. *Elbich, D., Molenaar, P.C., & Scherf, K. S. (2019). Evaluating the organizational structure and specificity of network topology within the face processing system. Human Brain Mapping, 1-15. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hbm.24546


  1. +Lui, P., Cole, P.M., Gilmore, R.O., Pérez-Edgar, K., Vigeant, M., *Moriarty, P. Scherf, K. S. (2018). Young children’s neural processing of their mother’s voice: An fMRI study. Neurospychologia, 122, 11-19.


  1. Scherf, K. S., *Griffin, J., Judy, B., +Whyte, E., Geier, C., *Elbich, D., & Smyth, J. M. (2018). Using Serious Game technology to Improve Sensitivity to Eye Gaze Cues in Autism: The protocol for an exploratory clinical trial. BMJ Open, 8(9), 1-11. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/9/e023682.abstract


  1. +Whyte, E., & Scherf, K. S. (2017). Gaze following is related to the broad autism phenotype in a sex-specific way: Building the case for distinct male and female autism phenotypes. Clinical Psychological Science, 6(2), 280-287.

Suzy Scherf
Suzy Scherf


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