What changes occur in the brain that make the adolescent period of life different from other times of life? Why do teens tend to misbehave and get in trouble? Why does mental illness seem to appear at this time of life? Dr. Beatriz Luna, professor of psychiatry and psychology, directs the Laboratory of Neurocognitive Development at the University of Pittsburgh. She is interested in understanding the changes that occur in the brain during adolescence to better understand teens’ behavior and help find ways to make this time of life better.


Researchers at the Laboratory of Neurocognitive Development investigate how the teenage brain works by having teens and adults rest comfortably in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine while they play simple computer games. MRI is used all over the world as a safe way to understand and picture the brain. Participants are asked to do a simple computer game where they look at a circle on the screen and sometimes try not to look at it. Pictures are taken of what the brain is doing while they do these computer games. Researchers can then create a picture of how teenagers as a group are different than adults. Participants are also asked to answer more questions on paper and play a few more computer games in the laboratory. Participants are paid for their time. Free parking or bus passes are available.

Researchers in the lab are looking for teens 14 years of age and adults up to 30 years of age. If you are interested in participating, call the laboratory at 412-383-8180 or e-mail Dr. Luna at ­lunalncd@gmail.com.

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