The main goal in our laboratory is to understand how the brain supports cognitive and social development from childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood.  In particular, we are interested in the neural mechanisms recruited during decision-making and social interactions and in how experience alters behavior and brain function.  We use behavioral, neuroimaging (e.g. fMRI), and survey-based methods to address these questions.


Brain Development and Learning

Many of the same brain processes that are involved in decision making and drug addiction are also important for learning. We are investigating whether adolescents’ ability to learn is affected by developmental changes that affect activity and connectivity within these networks.

Neural Correlates of Adolescent Decision-Making

Why do teens make poor decisions? Adolescence is often characterized by suboptimal decision-making.  In this project, we test the hypothesis that this behavior is related to protracted development of neural systems critical for optimal decision-making, self-regulation and reasoning.

Sleep and Emotion

Insufficient sleep in adults has been shown to affect emotion processing. Teens chronically experiencing insufficient sleep. Our goal is to determine how normative differences in teen sleep coupled with home and family factors may influence emotion processing.

Sleep Habits and Risk-taking Behaviors

Teens obtain insufficient sleep and experience excessive variability in sleep patterns, which may affect their day-to-day functioning and lead to heightened risk-taking behaviors. Our goal is to determine how irregular sleep patterns coupled with socioeconomic factors may influence poor health outcomes.

Stress and Brain Function

The brain is plastic and responsive to its internal and external environment.  One line of research in the laboratory examines how experience changes the developing brain.  For instance, how do learning, medication treatment or behavioral therapy alter behavioral-related brain function?