by Susan Perlman, PhD

This month’s issue on brain development in childhood and adolescence is a continuation of the monthly series started last year, focusing on health disparities in the Pittsburgh region. The series is a partnership among the New Pittsburgh Courier, Community PARTners (a core service of the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute—CTSI) and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. Susan Perlman, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Pitt, sat down with Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League, to talk about this month’s topic.


SP: Thank you so much, Ms. Bush, for allowing us the opportunity to discuss our newest research in child and adolescent brain development. We know that you work hard to get better education for children and always help them achieve their greatest potential. We also know that you are a believer in research as well. Did you find the research we shared about abnormal brain development helpful in understanding how to help us improve education for children?

EB: Thank you, Susan, for your contribution to this month’s segment, and, to answer your question, absolutely! The research studies highlighted in this segment show that children whose brains have not developed properly have a hard time paying attention in class, focusing on homework assignments and making friends. It seems that more research into abnormal brain development could help us discover new ways of helping children and adolescents from a variety of backgrounds with these difficulties. This means that we can get involved at an earlier age and help all children make the very most of their education. I look forward to learning more about what can be done or how people might participate in this type of research.

SP: There are a number of ways to get involved. First, there are research studies about brain development at the University of Pittsburgh currently looking for people of all ages to participate. In some studies, participants are given a picture of their own brain. Have you ever seen a picture of your brain, Ms. Bush?

EB: A picture of MY brain? No, I haven’t, but that would be exciting to see. You know, I was very interested in the information you shared in this month’s segment about adolescent decision making. It is fascinating that we are now able to see how the brain is activated by outside influences and how being around friends can make teens act more impulsively. We know that as a result of reading these segments, some readers want to learn more about how to participate in research. If readers are interested in participating in a research study, how can they take the first step?

SP: They can start by taking a look at the studies listed on this page. Often, we hear that parents are interested in brain studies. If they are, we encourage them to call as well and we can help them to identify the study that might be right for them.

EB: What a great way to spend some time together as a family while learning about the brain! This is a chance to take an “educational field trip.” Pittsburghers have real opportunities to influence the health and science issues that are of concern to them. I hope more members of our community will become involved in these great research projects!

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