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Research Update: What Causes Risky Teen Behavior?

M.D. Leslie Hulvershorn
Leslie Hulvershorn, M.D.,

As one of the nation’s leading pediatric research hospitals, Riley Hospital has a tenacious team of physician scientists who are constantly asking new questions and searching for answers that will help kids.

One of the many questions they’re asking right now: Why are some kids more impulsive than others, and more likely to make risky decisions? IU School of Medicine/Riley researchers are conducting a brain-imaging research study right now, led by Leslie Hulvershorn, M.D., that’s designed to investigate the parts of the brain involved with decision-making. The investigators are hoping their findings will help predict and potentially prevent the onset of risky behavior such as drug or alcohol use and sexual activity.

This study is focusing on children ages 11 and 12, with or without ADHD. Children and parents who are interested in being part of the study are screened, then children who qualify go through a brain scan (magnetic resonance imaging: MRI) while they complete decision-making tasks. Once the MRI portion of the study is complete, brief follow-up appointments are conducted every six months to assess the child’s behavior through a series of simple questions.

Researchers hope if they can pinpoint the brain mechanisms that underlie risky decisions, they can then develop a series of preventative interventions to help children and adolescents make safer, wiser choices throughout their lives.

For more information on participating in the study, email