Current Studies:

Social Understanding, Peers, Excellence, and Resilience (SUPER Teen & SUPER Brain) 

SUPER Teen and SUPER Brain are joint longitudinal projects that will investigate the influence of peers on adolescent risk-taking and neurobiological development. These studies aim to understand how adolescents’ perception of their social environment and their social networks impact peer influence and the onset of substance use. For SUPER Teen, we will be following over 500 middle school students across five years. A subset of these adolescents will also participate in fMRI scans as part of SUPER Brain where we seek to understand how the development of neural network connectivity relates to peer influence. For more information, please contact us here.

Funding source: NIH

Adolescent Brain and Technology Study

Adolescent Brain Development and Technology Initiative is a foundation-funded study on adolescent brain development, social relationships, health risk behaviors, and teen technology/social media use within an emerging center on technology, co-led by Drs. Eva Telzer and Mitch Prinstein.  This project synthesizes expertise in adolescent online social relationships and developmental social neuroscience to understand how adolescents’ experiences online are associated with changes in neural development. Combined with a thorough assessment of adolescents’ Internet usage (using self-reported online behaviors, observational coding of social media profiles, and data “scrubbing” from adolescents’ Internet devices) and repeated fMRI scans, we will begin to understand how adolescents’ online behavior is associated with brain development.

Website Link:


Completed Studies:

Project NeuroTeen

Project NeuroTeen was a longitudinal study examining the important role of peers and parents on neurobiological development during adolescence. With funding from an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health, we followed 150 middle school students across 4 years. We were interested in how the brain is changing during this very important developmental phase. By studying changes in brain development, we have been able to better understand the experiences and contexts that help teens thrive.

Funding sources: NIH, NSF

Children’s Social Development Project (CSDP)

This was phase three of a 10-year longitudinal study examining children’s social development. In collaboration with Dr. Nancy McElwain at the University of Illinois, children were assessed for social and cognitive functioning (e.g. Strange Situation, Snack Task) at 2, 3, and 5 years of age. During the  phase, the children were 13 years old, making it an exciting time to bring them back into the lab to assess longitudinal correlates of early measures. Phase three of the project involved bringing adolescents and their parents in for both an observational visit at our Research Home to assess family dynamics, as well as an fMRI session at the Biomedical Imaging Center. The addition of neuroimaging allowed us to prospectively examine how early social and cognitive functioning is related to brain development across a 10-year window.

Funding sources: NSF, Jacobs Foundation

The Carolina Sibling Study

Sibs1The Carolina Sibling Study was a 2-year longitudinal study that investigated how siblings influence brain and behavior across the teenage years. A total of 45 families participated including an adolescent 11-13 years old, an older siblings within 4 years of age, and a parent. Adolescents completed a brain scan, computer tasks, video-taped interaction tasks, and questionnaires, as well as provided anthropometric measurements (e.g., hair sample). Parents also completed questionnaires and provided hair samples. The goal of the study was to understand how social learning between siblings, as well as their similarities/differences in brain, behavior, and experiences, promotes positive adolescent development.

Social Contexts & Adolescent Neural Development (SCAND)

Project SCAND was a two-year longitudinal study supported by the National Science Foundation. The goal of this project was to understand the social contexts and brain mechanisms that influence teens’ decision-making, social interactions, and motivation. Approximately 80 adolescents completed a brain scan, computer tasks, and provided physical samples (e.g., hair, saliva). Our goal was to understand how neural development predicts longitudinal trajectories of psychological functioning, substance use, and risk taking behaviors.

Funding sources: NIH, NSF

Social Networks in Adolescence Project (SNAP)snap2

The SNAP Project aimed to understand the long-term impact of exposure to peer adversity on subsequent reactivity to social stress and consequent depression in adolescent girls. In collaboration with Dr. Karen Rudolph at the University of Illinois, adolescent girls with a well-characterized history of social stress were recruited from an 8-year longitudinal study which began when the girls were in second grade. While they were in high school, the study used computer-based performance tasks and fMRI scans to examine how individual differences in girls’ personality and interpersonal experiences influence their neural and behavioral processing of social threat cues.

Funding sources: NIH, NARSAD

Culture Study

We completed two studies that aimed to investigate the role of culture in neural and behavioral functioning. American and Chinese participants were recruited to complete an fMRI scan and questionnaires assessing their family and peer relationships, school motivation, and psychological functioning. This study allows us to examine cultural similarities and differences in the neural basis of cognitive control, emotion reactivity and regulation, and prosocial behavior.

Juvenile Justice Project (JJP)JJP2

This project’s main goal was to take a comprehensive approach to understanding when and why adolescents engage in high-risk behaviors. Adolescents were recruited from alternative schools for students who had engaged in gross misconduct. By examining cognitive, social, and emotional neural systems in at-risk youth, we are better able to understand how these processes develop and influence real-world outcomes, such as social adjustment, substance use and behavioral conduct issues.

Family Dyads Study

The Dyads study was a longitudinal study following children since they were in 7th grade. Parent-child dyads both underwent fMRI scans and completed questionnaires on family, school, and psychological well-being. The goal of this study was to investigate neural changes in children’s cognitive control, emotion regulation, and risk-taking behavior, with special attention to the role of parents in these processes.

Journeys in Adolescence

The Journeys in Adolescence (JIA 家) Study was a multimethod investigation examining the academic achievement, physical health, and emotional well-being of Chinese American adolescents and their families. Most studies of Chinese American families take place in diverse metropolitan areas and ethnic enclaves but JIA focuses on the unique experiences of families living in small, mostly homogenous Midwestern towns. We used questionnaires, daily checklists, and diurnal cortisol to answer a wide range of questions surrounding acculturation, family, school, and peer relationships, psychological functioning, and physical health and nutrition.

Funding source: Immigrant Health Transitions Initiative Seed Grant, UIUC

College Transition Study

CollegeTransition3The College Transition Study (CTS) sought to understand how changes during the course of social development across the high school-college transition impact the psychological well-being of college students. We were specifically interested in examining the role of close relationships (e.g., family, significant others, etc.) in this process. Over 500 first year college students completed self report measures prior to starting their first semester of school, and we followed these same students over their college years. In their second year of college, approximately 40 students completed a brain scan, and one year later completed several self report measures.

Eva Telzer