BJ Casey — Two Competing Models of the Adolescent Brain

LC: Can you tell me about the old dual system model of the adolescent brain and how the model you’ve recently helped to develop, the imbalance model, differs from that?

BJC: Yeah, so usually when people talk about the adolescent brain it’s about sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The dual system model is about two orthogonal or competing brain  systems, and one is more developed than the other so it basically wins out over the other. The imbalance model was based on imaging studies performed by my former graduate student Dr. Adriana Galvan (now tenured prof at UCLA) to look at the effects of rewards on developing brain circuitry rich in dopamine, which is very important for reinforcement learning in particular. And so the way we think the brain is evolving is related to the way regions are talking to one another or the connections among regions. Are you a Star Trek fan at all, or seen the recent movies even?

BJ Casey — The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study

LC: I’m wondering what your current research interests and projects are. I’ve heard you’re working on this ABCD study.

BJC: We are working with 635 children and their families every six months as part of the landmark Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study that is following brain development and health outcomes in over 11,000 nine-ten-year-old children in the US over the next 10 years. Sometimes the assessments take eight hours long, so every single day we are communicating, scheduling, assessing a family or making sure our data were entered correctly and completely. ...

BJ Casey — Biography

BJ Casey grew up on a small farm in North Carolina where “everything was an experiment.” From what fertilizer and what seed to use, Casey found it fascinating that every planting was its own experiment, in different circumstances and with different plants requiring different nutrients and soil types. Now the head of the Fundamentals of the Adolescent Brain (FAB) Lab in the department of psychology at Yale, she sees every individual as similarly unique, requiring personalized analysis and nurturing.

BJ Casey — Mental Health Stigma

LC: John Oliver called mental illness “The thing actors pretend to have to win Oscars.” In that episode he describes the offensive terminology that is often used and the stigma around it. What do you think is the right way to tackle these issues?

BJC: Society has to change! Every time somebody gets shot, to say it’s mental illness gives mental illness a bad rap. Or they’ll say the person is psychotic… Psychotic people are actually more dangerous to themselves than they are to us most of the time. So that in and of itself is putting a huge stigma on mental illness ...

BJ Casey — Her Motivation

LC: When if ever do you think “Oh this is explained by my research” or you see something in your daily life where you think “Oh this makes complete sense when you know some psychology”?

BJC: So what drives me in science are the questions. And every time I do an experiment, it raises another exciting question. People constantly ask the question of why an individual engaged in a specific behavior when they know I am psychologist. ...