The Brain, Family, and Health Lab focuses on how the brain and the family environment intersect to affect health. We primarily focus on executive functions, self-regulation, and mental health in combination with family poverty and family functioning in adolescents and adults.
The purpose of the Brain, Family, and Health Lab is to find sustainable, public health approaches to improving executive functioning, in an effort to help individuals create healthier family environments and ultimately to improve health, especially in impoverished populations. Executive functions help us to manage our lives. The Harvard Center for the Developing Child has compared executive functions to the air traffic control system of our lives. Executive functions are a family of skills (such as problem solve, inhibitory control, planning, working memory, and attention shifting) that help us to reach our small and big goals. These functions are housed in the prefrontal cortex, which develops over the first three decades of our lives. Family and community poverty, violence, and dysfunction can impair the development of the prefrontal cortex and our executive functioning capacities, which is one reason why the family environment is so important to child and adolescent healthy development. When our executive functions are impaired, we are more likely to engage in behaviors that negatively affect our health and family relationships, and it may be more difficult to escape from challenging situations like poverty. Public health intervention and promotion efforts that account for executive functioning are more likely to have a positive impact on health.