Our behaviors are the expressions of our thoughts and feelings. We use lab-based measures of behavior as a means to understand the way people act, and therefore the way they think, in certain situations. We use a wide range of activities to look at how our participants complete tasks, respond to stimuli, and interact with others. Using a variety of lab-based methods, including iPad and computer games, and play interactions with our research assistants, allows us to understand different facets of our participants' behavior, which we can then piece together into a comprehensive picture of each participant. Questionnaires, completed by the participant themselves or by family members, are also an important way for us to understand behaviors that can't be seen in the context of our lab, such as behavior at school or over extended periods of time.
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI)
While behavioral tasks are important in understanding individuals' cognition, they are limited in the information that they can provide about the brain, which is crucial for better understanding different behaviors. We look at brain activity with fMRI, which uses a magnetic field in the MRI scanner to measure blood flow in the brain, as a way of tracking which areas of the brain are activated across time. We use resting state fMRI, which involves the participant simply laying still in order to map their brain activation when they are at rest, and also use fMRI to measure participants' brain responses while completing a range of tasks in the scanner. Many of these tasks are the same as, or related to, the tasks that participants complete in the lab, allowing us to better understand the links between brain activity and behavior.
A large percentage of adults and adolescents own a smartphone, making mobile technologies a promising new way of reaching people quickly and easily. This is especially important because many of the most common situations in our lives can't be completely re-created in the lab, and so using mobile technologies can help us to better understand behavior in everyday contexts. In our research we not only use smartphones, but also different wearable devices that can be used to flexibly capture behavior both in and outside the laboratory setting.