Brain Development, Neural Reward Circuitry, and Adolescent Mental Health

"This experience is vastly increasing my neurological knowledge and giving me hands on experience with research procedures. The research is giving me insight into how longitudinal studies are organized."

 

Supervising Faculty:

Erika E. Forbes, Ph.D. and Judith K. Morgan, Ph.D.

 

Contact: 

Erika E. Forbes, Ph.D.
forbese@upmc.edu
412-246-5871

 

Area of Research:  Clinical, Developmental

 

Description of Research:

 

We are looking for directed research students to work on 3 exciting studies that combine clinical neuroscience and developmental psychopathology to investigate questions about mental health during adolescence and early adulthood. We are studying depression, substance use, and risky behavior in adolescence. Our question include how do the brain systems underlying reward behavior and positive emotions change during adolescence? How do these changes lead some adolescents to develop depression, substance use, or other serious problems? How does family history of mental illness influence development in these brain systems and increases in related symptoms?

 

We have 3 ongoing studies: (1) the development of anhedonia, or difficulties with anticipating or enjoying pleasant events, in adolescents with a family history of mental illness (anhedonia study);  (2) the development of anhedonia in adolescents who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB study); and (3) cognitive flexibility in adolescents with eating disorders (ANBN study). 

 

If interested in getting involved in either lab, please contact Erika Forbes (forbese@upmc.edu) to apply.

 

Duties of Students:

Directed research students get the opportunity to work with participants and their families, work with data, observe functional MRI brain scans, participate in lively lab meetings about current and future studies, and contribute to a variety of critical activities in the lab.  Importantly, all students will have the opportunity to conduct their own projects based on their interests in psychology, neuroscience, human development, or mental health.  Ideally, students will be involved for at least 2 semesters and will present their projects in the Department of Psychology’s and University’s research days.

 

Additional Requirements:

  • Students must have at least a 3.5 GPA and meet the other departmental requirements
  • 2-term commitment required
  • Interest in abnormal and developmental psychology; experience working with young people; and exposure to statistics preferred

 

Terms offered: fall and spring

 

Number of Students: 5 or 6