All teens can do risky things, especially when they’re with friends. But, why do some teens get themselves into serious trouble? They might be more drawn to rewards, like fun and exciting experiences. This can lead them to driving dangerously, trying drugs, taking sexual risks or other risky behavior.


The Social Brain Network is a study led by Dr. Erika Forbes, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. The study uses computer games, a conversation with a friend and brain scanning to understand how teens might respond differently to rewards. The study is the first to learn about teens’ response to rewards by measuring their brain function while they watch videos of their friends having fun.

The study includes healthy Pittsburgh teens, ages 14 to 18. Participants come in to the office in Oakland to play some computer games, fill out questionnaires and have a conversation with their best friend. Then, they receive calls by cell phone over two weekends to ask about their mood and activities. Finally, teens will do a brain scan with games, including the game with videos of their friend. The goal of the study is to help teens grow up healthier and happier by avoiding risky behaviors.

If your teen is interested in participating, please call Marigrace by phone at 412-383-5439 or by e-mail at

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