Research

Overview of mission, framework, research goals

Our core mission is to advance developmental science in ways that contribute to improving the lives of youth. Our approach emphasizes trans-disciplinary teams. Currently, our research is focusing on early adolescence as a compelling developmental window — creating unique vulnerabilities and opportunities. We use a social and affective neuroscience framework to help understand how social experiences in adolescence can shape the development of motivational processes in ways that can have an enduring impact on many aspects of health and well-being. Our long-term goals are to advance mechanistic developmental understanding that can inform prevention, education, and youth policy.

Sensation Seeking Research

One focus of our current research on early adolescence is to advance our understanding of puberty specific changes in sensation seeking. This includes conceptual and methodological advances regarding developmental changes in liking and wanting high-arousal and relatively intense feelings/sensations. We are currently conducting work that includes the development and refinement of behavioral measures of these constructs and their correlations with a variety of self-report measures, as well as their correlation with physical and hormonal measures of pubertal maturation.

Implicit Attitudes

Our lab is also interested in implicit as well as explicit measures of attitudes, values, and priorities, and how these develop and change across adolescent maturation. We are currently adapting implicit attitude methods tailored to younger adolescents specifically looking specifically adolescent sexual behavior. In this research, we are exploring whether peer presence, found to be very influential on adolescent explicit attitudes and behaviors, have a similar effect on implicit attitudes. This project is supported through collaboration with Reinout Weirs (Max Plank Institute – Berlin) and Alan Stacy (Claremont Graduate University).

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.

We will describe these collaborations in more detail when we launch the site for the Center on the Developing Adolescent.