Why are some individuals more susceptible to engage in risky health behaviors? Relative to adults, adolescents are more prone to engage in potentially risky behaviors, but why are some more likely to overeat, abuse alcohol, or become addicted to substances?

My previous work explored environmental and genetic influences on adolescent health-risk outcomes by leveraging pervasive exposure to advertisements. In using naturalistic stimuli like ads, we can approximate how real-world reward cues might contribute to pediatric obesity (Rapuano et al., 2015), interact with genetic risk for obesity (Rapuano et al., 2016), or align individuals with a common goal (e.g., underage drinking).

Currently, I’m interested in extending this work to examine the contribution of neurodevelopment on health-risk behaviors and outcomes. How might the development of interconnected brain regions differentially motivate adolescents to use or abuse illicit substances? To get at these questions I’m using functional connectivity to capture longitudinal patterns or trajectories of neurodevelopment that might increase risk for later substance abuse. Stay tuned!