Yasmein Ali

Major: Neuroscience
Purdue School of Science
Supervisor: Nikhil Shah
Department: IU School of Medicine

Neural Response To Risky Decision Making In Youth At High Risk For Substance Use Disorders And HIV

Substance use disorder and risky sexual behavior is becoming exceedingly common in younger demographics due to its normalization in school and social environments. Certain factors, such as a family history of substance abuse and externalizing behavioral disorders, can make children and adolescents more susceptible to developing early substance use behaviors, substance use disorders, and risky sexual practices that increase risk of HIV transmission. Analyzing these factors will allow scientists to better understand initiation of risky behavior and the factors that put certain individuals at higher risk than others. In order to study this problem, the Hulvershorn lab recruits and groups children aged 11-12 into a control group, mid-risk group, or high-risk group, based on a number of factors examined in an initial screening survey. These subjects are then administered behavioral assessments, scanned using fMRI, and followed up with every 6 months for a period of 5 years to understand their substance use and sexual behaviors and attitudes. From the data compiled, the Hulvershorn Lab can determine what risk factors influence the development of these risky behaviors, knowledge that can advance understanding of child development, help prevent substance use disorder, and lower transmission of HIV among adolescents.