Stress Mechanisms in Adolescents

Brief Description: 
In this study we are interested in examining how stressful experiences influence the development of brain regions involved in emotional responses, emotion regulation, and memory. We are also interested in how stress influences social behavior, activity levels, and sleep to create increased risk for mental health problems in teenagers.
Eligibility for Participation: 
We are recruiting females aged 15-17, who have a cellphone.
Participation Details: 
The study involves 12 sessions equally spaced over a 1–year period. During the first session your daughter will come to the Stress and Development Lab to answer questions about her life experiences and emotions and complete emotion-related tasks on a computer. Several applications (apps) will be downloaded onto her smartphone to measure physical activity, sleep, and number of texts/calls on a daily basis for the duration of the study. These apps will also be used to ask your daughter some questions about how she is feeling in between the monthly visits. Your child will also be given a wearable device that measures physiological activity, such as sleep quality and heart rate. At this session you will be asked to complete some questionnaires. This part of the study will take approximately 5 hours, and can be split into two sessions. During Sessions 2-11, your teen will come to the Diagnostic Imaging Sciences Center at University of Washington to complete a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan on a monthly basis for 10 months. During each session your teen will also complete questionnaires and an interview about her life experiences. These sessions will take about 1.5 to 2 hours. The final session takes place back at our lab where your teen will complete the same activities as in Session 1. Parents will also complete some of the same questionnaires as in Session 1. Your teen can earn up to $1105 for completing all study procedures (for the first and final sessions they will be paid $50 and $100 respectively, $755 for the ten MRI scans, and $200 if all smartphone surveys are completed), as well as a chance to win up to an additional $150 on bonus tasks.
Full Description: 
Adolescence is a period of heightened vulnerability for mental health problems, particularly for the onset of anxiety and depression. Adolescent-onset anxiety and depression can lead to a wide range of negative consequences across the life-course, including elevated risk of recurrent episodes of anxiety and depression in adulthood, and poorer overall functioning. Stressful life events are well-known risk factors for anxiety and depression during adolescence, though the mechanisms linking stressful life events to the onset of youth anxiety and depression are not well described. Understanding mechanisms of stress vulnerability in adolescence will provide valuable targets for preventing anxiety and depression during this key developmental window of risk. The current study involves regular monthly assessments, which allows us to intensively examine ‘real time’ changes in emotion, behavior, physiology, and brain networks underlying emotional processing following stressful life events. This study requires participants to complete monthly MRI scans, surveys and interviews that measure levels of stress and mental health, and install applications onto their phones to track physiological activity, social behavior and self-reported wellbeing.
Katie McLaughlin, Ph.D., Stress & Development Lab, Department of Psychology
Research Contact: 
If your child is interested in participating, please e-mail us at or call (206) 221-8505.
Your teen can earn up to $1105, as well as a chance to win up to $150 in bonus tasks
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