Research tools

We use several methods in order to fully understand adolescent development. Some of the tools we use to understand development are explained on this page. Not every study requires every tool.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is an invaluable tool for scientists researching the brain. It is a safe, non-invasive procedure. MRI is like a big camera that uses magnets to track the flow of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood to take incredibly detailed pictures of the brain. We can use this technology to take structural images and understand how brain regions grow and change in shape. We can also use it to take functional images, which allow us to observe changes in the activation of certain brain regions during a given task. The studies in our lab that use fMRI involve the participant playing games while in the scanner. The procedure takes up to about an hour and a half.

Spit Kit

Spit kits are a non-invasive way for researchers to investigate biological responses to daily life events. Using tubes provided by the lab, participants provide saliva samples across the course of a few days. These samples are assayed for cortisol and pubertal hormones. We don’t use spit kit samples to look at DNA or any genetic information. The data from spit kits provide insight into the underlying biological processes that occur as adolescents go about their daily life.

Daily Checklists

Daily Checklists provide researchers with an opportunity to record life as it is lived. Participants are emailed a brief (5-10 min each) survey each night before they go to bed, asking if certain events occurred that day and how those events may have made them feel. The surveys ask about interactions with peers, teachers, siblings and parents. If participants do not have email access, paper copies can be made available for use. This research method better allows us to understand what day-to-day factors influence adolescent development.


Eva Telzer