Research

Adolescent Research Collaborative (ARC)

The ARC seeks to bring together several disciplinary perspectives to promote a more integrative understanding of developmental science, including public health, psychology and education. We hope that a trans-disciplinary approach can be applied to create positive impact to improve the lives of youth in real world settings.   

Our current projects focus on very young adolescents. The onset of adolescence initiates a period of rapid physical growth, maturational changes, social learning, adaptation, and formational neurobiological development. During this time of dynamic change young lives can pivot rapidly—in negative and positive directions. From a developmental science perspective, there is growing interest in understanding how to target this time of pivotal change as a window of opportunity—to promote positive developmental trajectories of health, education, social, and economic success.

We are currently involved in designing interventions to leverage this developmental window for positive change. Each project utilizes a school-based intervention in a low-to-middle income country (Tanzania and Perú) and seeks to improve developmental trajectories spanning multiple outcomes (health, social development, and wellbeing).

Current Projects

Discover Learning is a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded study designed for very young adolescents (10 to 11 years old) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  Discover Learning is a 12-session, after school intervention led by young adult facilitators.  Discover Learning includes team building and collaborative mixed-gender group work, laptop-based learning activities, opportunities to discover the value of learning in shaping one's future, and time for reflection.  The long-term goal of Discover Learning is to better understand how scientific insights about early adolescence and puberty can enhance the impact of scalable interventions to improve social relationships, gender equity and health outcomes.

ARC staff: Megan Cherewick, Christine Su and Ron Dahl

Transitions is a project in partnership with Innova Schools in Perú, which seeks to support students in the transition between primary and middle school. By adding developmental science principles into the design of their Advisory curricula, we seek to more effectively scaffold healthy habits. Transitions is an in-school intervention led by teachers which fosters student discussions and activities to explore digital citizenship, and the positive and negative impacts digital media can have on relationships, sleep and overall wellbeing. The long-term goal of Transitions is to develop a culturally relevant and developmentally appropriate program for teachers and students in Perú.

ARC staff: Lucía Magis Weinberg and Ron Dahl

Collaborative Research Projects

In addition to the studies being conducted in our laboratory, we also are engaged in a set of collaborations with other colleagues here at UC Berkeley, at other UC Campuses, as well as broader collaborations nationally and internationally. Our current research priorities include: a) theoretical work (heuristic models integrating developmental neuroscience with social and cultural influences on adolescent development and specifically, particularly focusing on social influences on the development of neural systems underpinning motivation); b) empirical research testing key features of these models focusing on hypotheses about puberty-specific changes (and pubertal hormone specific changes) in developing neural systems. In addition, we are interested in methods and processes relevant to the formation, support, and development of trans-disciplinary research teams — particularly regarding the broad implications of this developmental research to public and global health approaches to adolescent health.

Science of Learning in Adolescence

This collaborative network, funded by the National Science Foundation, is working to transform the adolescent window of vulnerability, when so many youth become bored and disengaged from school, into a window of opportunity, a natural period of curiosity, exploration, and unique learning. Network members integrate animal and human studies on learning to develop new methods, tasks, and analyses for isolating specific aspects of cognitive, social, and affective learning that change from childhood to adolescence. The core leadership team for this project is Ron Dahl, Linda Wilbrecht, and Anne Collins at UC Berkeley. Additional collaborators include the Center on the Developing Adolescence members Adriana Galván (UCLA) and Jennifer Pfeifer (U Oregon), as well as Alison Gopnik (UC Berkeley) and the Science of Learning Network led by Adam Gazzeley and Melina Uncaphor at UCSF.