Social Neurosciences Research Program

Our Research

The principal goal of the Parker Lab Social Neurosciences Research Program at Stanford University is to better understand the biology of social functioning using an integrative, translational approach. Our behavioral research spans studies of individual differences in rhesus monkey social development to studies of social cognition impairments in various clinical populations (e.g., in children with autism; in survivors of hypothalamic-pituitary tumors; in adults with posttraumatic stress disorder). We are also developing several innovative monkey models of social impairments, including studies of rhesus monkeys that naturally exhibit social cognition deficits and common marmoset monkeys which are engineered to do so. Our biological studies employ epigenetic, gene expression, and neurotransmitter-based approaches to identify biomarkers of impaired social functioning, and we also conduct treatment trials to test the efficacy of novel pharmacotherapies to improve social abilities in low-social monkeys and in children with autism. Our lab is particularly interested in testing whether “social” neuropeptide (e.g., oxytocin and arginine vasopressin) signaling pathways are implicated in human and non-human primate social behavior, and whether these neuropeptide pathways are robust biomarkers of, and treatment targets for, social impairments in clinical populations.

Please visit our “research” page to learn more about the specific projects our team is currently conducting, and ways in which YOU can help move research forward, either by joining our research teamparticipating in one of our research studies, or by donating to our research program.

My favorite molecule

A dozen Stanford Medicine researchers (including Dr. Parker) explain what piques their interest when it comes to molecules.


Dr. Karen J. Parker appointed Truong-Tan Broadcom Endowed Professor

Pictured from left: Dr. Lya Truong, Dr. Karen Parker, and Mr. Hock Tan

From Broadcom's LinkedIn post:

"Hock Tan, President and CEO of Broadcom, and his wife, Lya Truong, recently attended the investiture of the first Truong-Tan Broadcom Endowed Professorship at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Professor Karen Parker has committed her life to understanding and finding solutions to the challenges faced by children with autism and learning disabilities. In doing so, she’s bringing hope to many. Karen embodies the spirit of innovation and determination that drives both Broadcom and Stanford. Our hope is that this professorship will create an environment where brilliant minds like Karen’s can flourish."

Huberman Lab Podcast


In this episode, Dr. Karen Parker, Ph.D., discusses the biology of social connections and bonding in babies, children and adults. Dr. Parker explains our current understanding of autism and autism spectrum disorders: what they are, why the incidence of autism has increased so dramatically in recent years and both the current and emerging treatments for autism. She also discusses the condition formerly called “Asperger’s.” This episode ought to be highly relevant for anyone interested in child and human development, how social bonds form, and to those curious about autism and other spectrum conditions.