Faculty Directory

William J. Gavin

William J. Gavin, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

Contact Information

441 Behavioral Sciences Building
1570 Campus Delivery
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1570

Phone: 970-227-9999
Fax: 970-491-7975
E-mail: william.gavin@colostate.edu


Brainwaves Research Laboratory

Research Interests

Since receiving my doctorate degree in Experimental Psychology at the University of Miami (Coral Gables, Florida), I have been conducting research addressing a variety of issues related to child development, cognition, and language acquisition. My early research included topics such as animal learning models (undergraduate years), physiological psychology with emphasis on neuroscience (graduate years) and child development (post graduate years). My early research in child development focused primarily on addressing a variety of issues related to language acquisition and the assessment of language disorders in very young children. During this period I worked on research projects that investigated infant speech perception and production, designed and tested tactile communication devices for the deaf, and explored methodological strategies for objectively measuring language acquisition in preschool age children by documenting changes in linguistic skills (e.g., syntax development) based on natural observation techniques. These research efforts marked the beginnings of my interest in applied developmental psycholinguistics. More recently, I have helped developed a program of research on sensory processing and cognitive development in children and adolescents utilizing electroencephalography (EEG) and event-related potentials (ERPs) methodologies. While my current research activities focus primarily on brain activity elicited by sensory stimuli or cognitive processing tasks, I still continue to publish in the areas of general development and child language acquisition.

In our EEG/ERP research, we are examining the inter-relationship among changes in brain activity measures using a variety of task paradigms and cognitive abilities measured with neuropsychological assessments. We are obtaining these measures in children and adolescents during the developmental period of 7 years to 18 years of age. Given that this age span is believed to represent the period of maximal functional development of the prefrontal cortex, our projects are designed to test the general hypothesis that changes in the functioning of the prefrontal cortex are critical for the development of higher order cognitive abilities, specifically executive functions. Over a 4 year period, we collected ERP and behavioral data from over 400 children and 235 adults for this line of research alone. A unique aspect of this work is our demonstration of the usefulness of multivariate statistical techniques as a means of understanding individual differences within this population. We have also conducted projects that focused on measuring the test-retest reliability of cognitive ERPs in children and adults.

In a second line of EEG/ERP research, we are examining sensory registration (perception) and sensory gating (filtering) in young children, 5 to 10 years of age, with and without sensory processing disorders. The purpose of our present effort is to better understand the experimental conditions that produce the most reliable electrophysiological measures of sensory registration and sensory gating of auditory stimuli in adults and children. With our refined Sensory Gating (P50) ERP paradigm we have shown that children with sensory processing disorders display deficiencies in their ability to gate repetitive sensory (auditory) information and are exploring the interrelationships of the brain activity measures (i.e. ERPs) with behavioral manifestations of sensory processing deficits. While our current work has an emphasis on basic psychophysiological studies, our research program has the long term goal of conducting treatment effectiveness studies in clinical populations (e.g., children with autism, ADHA, sensory processing dysfunction, etc.).


B.S., 1973, Psychology, Moorhead State University, Moorhead, Minnesota
M.S., 1977, Experimental Psychology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida
Ph.D., 1979, Experimental Psychology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida

Current Research Projects

Bridging Home and Preschool Environments to Promote Healthy Eating and Activity Behaviors and Prevent Obesity in Early Childhood, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) NIFA AFRI. 2015 - 2020. Co-Principal Investigator

Removing Barriers to the Practical Use of Noninvasive Brain-Computer Interfaces. National Science Foundation (NSF), IIS – Human Centered Computing. 2011 - 2016. Co-Principal Investigator

A Longitudinal Study to Assess if the Effectiveness of a Preschool Nutrition and Physical Activity program is Sustained in Elementary School. United States Department of Agriculture, CSREES, 2010 - 2014. Co-Investigator.

Professional Experience

2010-present: Associate Professor. Department of Human Development & Family Studies, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

2013-present: Adjunct Associate Professor. New Zealand Institute of Language Brain & Behaviour, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

2012-2013: Post-Doctoral Fellowship. New Zealand Institute of Language Brain & Behaviour, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

2008-2010: Associate Professor. Department of Occupational Therapy, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

2004-2008: Research Scientist/Scholar III. Department of Occupational Therapy, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

2000-2007: Research Associate Professor. Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

1998-2000: Clinical Associate Professor & Director of Distributed Learning. School of Health Related Professions, University at Buffalo–SUNY, Buffalo, New York

1994-1998: Research Associate Professor & Director of Graduate Studies. Department of Occupational Therapy, University at Buffalo–SUNY, Buffalo, New York

1989-1994: Associate Professor. Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming

1982-1989: Adjunct Associate Professor. Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences, Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas

1981-1989: Director of Research. Research Division, Institute of Logopedics, Wichita, Kansas

1979-1981: Adjunct Assistant Professor. Mailman Center for Child Development, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, Florida

1977-1979: Research Assistant. Mailman Center for Child Development, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, Florida

Selected Publications

Johnson, S.L., Davies, P.L., Boles, R.E., Gavin, W.J., & Bellows, L.L. (2015). Relations among parent ratings of young children's food neophobia, sensory behaviors and food intake from the Colorado LEAP Study. The Journal of Nutrition. In press.

Boles, R.E., Burdell, A., Johnson, S.L., Gavin, W.J., Davies, P.L., Bellows, L.L. (2014). Home food and activity assessment: Development and validation of an instrument for diverse families of young children. Appetite. 80, 23-27. DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2014.04.026

Bellows, L.L., Johnson, S.L., Davies, P.L., Anderson, J., Gavin, W.J., Boles, R.E. (2013). The Colorado LEAP Study: Rationale and design of a study to assess the short term longitudinal effectiveness of a preschool nutrition and physical activity program. BMC Public Health, 13:1146. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-1146

Chang, W-P, Gavin, W.J., & Davies, P.L. (2012). Bandpass Filter Settings Differentially Affect Measurement of P50 Sensory Gating in Children and Adults. Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clinph.2012.03.019

Fletcher, P., Klee, T., & Gavin, W.J. (2012). LARSP Thirty years on. In M.J. Ball, D. Crystal, & P. Fletcher (eds.), Assessing grammar: the languages of LARSP. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Gavin, W.J., Dotseth, A., Roush, K., Smith, C., Spain, H. & Davies, P.L. (2011). Electroencephalography in Children with and without Sensory Processing Disorders during Auditory Perception. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65, 370–377. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2011.002055.

Chang, W-P, Davies, P.L. &, Gavin, W.J. (2010). Individual Differences in Error Monitoring in Health Adults: Psychological Symptoms and Antisocial Personality Characteristics. European Journal of Neuroscience, 32, 1388–1396. doi:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2010.07384.x.

Davies, P.L., Chang, W-P., & Gavin, W.J. (2010). Middle and Late Latency of ERP Components Discriminate between Adults, Typical Children, and Children with Sensory Processing Disorders. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 4 (16), 1-9. doi:10.3389.

Atler, K., & Gavin, W.J. (2010). A Mixed Methods Inquiry into the Effect of Service-Learning on Graduate Students’ Competencies. Occupational Therapy in Health Care, 24 (1), 23-38. doi: 10.3109/07380570903410860.

Davies, P.L., Chang, W-P., & Gavin, W.J. (2009). Maturation of Sensory Gating Performance in Children with and without Sensory Processing Disorders. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 72 (2), 187-197.

Thematic Research Areas

  • Risk, Resilience, and Developmental Psychopathology
  • Treatment, Intervention, and Prevention Science
  • Focus on Methodological Quality