Depression is more likely to arise in adolescence than in childhood, suggesting that vulnerability for depression may be rooted in neurodevelopmental mechanisms. This is particularly important to study because of the continued development in adolescence of the neural circuits that support cognitive and emotional regulation. Project researchers are examining the development of depressed mood and depressive disorder among Mexican-origin adolescents 16 to 19 years of age. Using brain (e.g., function and structure), hormonal and psychophysiological (e.g., heart rate, skin conductance) measurements, the investigators are studying neurobiological systems in relation to psychosocial factors in adolescence. The research team is examining these neurobiological processes as they underlie adolescents' reactivity to emotional, social and rewarding types of information.
Another goal of "The California Families Project" neurobiology study is to help determine how sociocultural factors and environmental adversity contribute to the development of depression and related problems in adolescence. The research team strives to answer these questions by examining interactions between multiple neurobiological systems and social-contextual factors that lead to development of depression problems in Mexican-origin youth. They are examining the influence of both negative (e.g., poverty, family stress, neighborhood crime) and positive (e.g., family values, cultural beliefs, social support) factors on the associations between neurobiological functioning and development of depression in these youth.