Brain Development Study

We are conducting a study of brain development in 4- to 6-year-old children. We are interested in understanding brain development in children who often feel sad and/or irritable and those who don’t feel this way. This study involves two appointments: 1) an in-person interview and child assessment, and 2) an MRI scan

The main goal of the study is to help us better understand how the brain works in healthy preschoolers compared to those who are often sad or irritable. In order to do this, we will ask your child to take part in an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan that will create pictures of their brain’s structure and let us see how their brain reacts when they are looking at pictures of people expressing feelings, such as sadness, or just quietly resting. MRI is considered low risk and safe for children of all ages because it does not use X-rays or radiation to look at the brain. Instead, it uses a very strong magnet (similar to ones you might have at home) to take ‘brain pictures.’

We have found that most children are very excited about having their brain picture taken and really enjoy sharing it with their friends and family. During the MRI scan, your child will be asked to lie as still as possible. In order to help them lie still, we will practice beforehand in a pretend scanner in our lab and use specially designed equipment in the real scanner to hold their head and shoulders comfortably in place. The scan lasts between 20 and 30 minutes.

By comparing children who feel sad or irritable with those who do not, we may be able to learn about differences in how the brain works. If you are eligible for the study, benefits include a free MRI of your child’s brain and potentially helping other children by increasing our understanding of how the brain works.


We are not currently enrolling for the Brain Development Study