YDDC About the Lab
At YDDC, we are committed to investigating young people in the
complex ecosystem in which they live. We investigate not only
environmental factors and social stressors, but internal emotional and
biological reactions to these factors. Analysis of biological variables
along with socio-emotional ones allows us to examine the pathways by
which life experiences affect health and development. Such study
requires precise equipment to assure the highest quality data.
Our current study focuses on collects sleep and physical activity data on adolescent participants. To collect this data, participants wear Motionlogger Microwatches for two weeks. Motionlogger bands are considered the highest quality of actigraphy monitors on the market. They have been validated for clinical and research purposes and have are reliable when compared to polysomnography. The output from these bands provides rich data about participants' daily cycles of sleep and wakefulness.
We have also begun a smaller laboratory based study on the stress reactions to young people to various hypothetical situations. We use a clinical grade blood pressure monitor to measure the reactivity in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, as well as changes in pulse. Examination of such variables provides insight into how stress, both racial and generalized, may affect health by inducing a state of higher physiological arousal. The equipment is also used to test how long this state of arousal may last. Those who remain in a state of hyperarousal longer after the offset of stress may be at higher risk for negative outcomes.
Blood Pressure Monitor
In the same lab study, we will be examining biological indicators of longer term stress through cortisol testing. In the past cortisol was only able to be tested through blood or urine, which provides only a short term indicator of stress over the last day or less. Advances have allowed cortisol testing of hair samples to provide a biological measure of chronic, rather than acute stress levels. We collect hair samples from participants in the lab. These samples then undergo radioimmunoassay testing, which allows us to have biological indicators of participant stress levels over the past several months.
For the two weeks they wear wrist monitors, participants also answer nightly survey questions about their mood and experiences to gather information about their subjective experience of day to day life. To gather this survey data in real time, we provide the participants with Android tablets where they can access the surveys online each night before bed. The ability to combine objective biomarkers of stress and sleep with subjective survey responses on related variables provides a more complete method to study the holistic conditions of youth development.