Developmental Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab

University of Maryland, College Park
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Our Methods

We may use a few different methods in our studies. The methods we use depend on the study, so our researchers will always give you an overview of each study you express interest in learning about. Below is more information about the methods we use in our lab.

Method #1: Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

One common method we use in our lab is fMRI. fMRI stands for “functional magnetic resonance imaging.” fMRI allows us to see how your child’s brain is functioning in response to pictures, movies, sounds, and words. fMRI is widely used in research and known to be safe! You may be nervous that your child might not like being in an MRI scanner, but we make sure we practice with each and every child in our mock (or pretend) scanner before bringing them into the real scanner. That way, you and your child can feel comfortable with the study. The "Explore" column has some resources you can review with your child to become familiar with our fMRI studies.

Method #2: Behavioral Tasks & Surveys

Another common method we use in our lab is behavioral tasks. For participants, these tasks will involve some interactive computer games, video clips, and questions about themselves and the clips they watched. We try to create tasks that will be as fun and interesting as possible for your child. For caregivers and peers of participants, tasks will include questionnaires about your feelings, interests, and relationships.

Method #3: Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA)

A method specific to a portion of one of our studies is Ecological Momentary Assessment, or EMA. EMA involves asking about what you are doing and feeling in the moment, in different environments. We will send your child text messages with short questionnaires at a few different times of day, to see what they might be doing or feeling as they interact socially with people in their lives. If your child does not use a smartphone, we can lend them a lab phone just for their EMA questions.

Method #4: Heart Rate Monitoring

For the same portion of one of our studies as the text messages, we also offer the option for your child to track their heart rate and breathing. For a few hours each day, your child can wear a heart rate monitoring band paired to their phone (or a phone from our lab) using Bluetooth.