Childhood Experiences and the Brain


We are conducting a research study to examine how childhood experiences alter brain circuits that control stress responses and how these changes may influence stress reactivity and mental health in adulthood. Understanding how childhood experiences affect the brain could be helpful in developing methods of early detection or prevention of mental health issues or treatment effects.

Who may participate

We are looking for men and women who:

  • Are 21-35 years old
  • Do not have metal in the body, including significant dental work


All procedures will take place at either Sterling Plaza in North Oakland near the University of Pittsburgh Main Campus, or the Magnetic Resonance Research Center (MRRC) at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.


This study consists of two visits totaling approximately 4-6 hours.

Phone Screen: We will ask potential participants questions only to determine eligibility.

Visit 1: Participants will complete paper and online questionnaires. This may be followed by an in-person interview. If eligible to continue in the study, a second visit will be scheduled.

Visit 2: Participants will undergo an MRI scan and be asked to remain still and perform a computerized task.  While participants complete the tasks in the scanner, physiological measures including heart rate and blood pressure will be recorded.


For completing the questionnaires and interview, participants will be compensated between $15 and $25. All compensation for Visit 1 procedures will be received after completion of the in-person interview, if applicable. For Visit 2, participants will earn $75 for completing the MRI scan. Thus, final compensation may be $90 or $100.


There will be no direct benefit from taking part in this study.

Risks associated with participation are minimal and are generally no greater than the risks encountered in daily life.


Any information about you that is obtained in this study will remain strictly confidential. No information that you provide to us will become a part of your medical or military record, if applicable. Your personal information (such as your name and birth date) will be stored separately and securely from the information we collect about you for the study. This information will only be labeled with a 6-digit identification number that is in no way connected to you.

Contacting Us

If you are interested in participating and would like to determine if you are eligible, please contact us either by email at, or contact Christine Peng by telephone at 412-383-2155.