BrainChange Lab

BrainChange Study

Welcome to the BrainChange Lab, which is led by Olga Tymofiyeva, PhD. The focus of our lab's research is non-invasive mapping of the structure, microstructure, connectivity and function of the developing brain, in particular the adolescent brain. We develop and apply advanced MRI techniques to study the neurobiological substrates of mental disorders (in particular, adolescent depression) and effects of non-pharmacological mind-body interventions (such as mindfulness and placebo) on children and adolescents.

Dr. Tymofiyeva has a close collaboration with Tony Yang, MD, PhD from the Department of Psychiatry. Drs. Tymofiyeva and Yang serve as Co-Principal Investigators on many grants.


BrainChange Study (currently recruiting)

The goal of our UCSF BrainChange study is to use MRI imaging to observe brain changes in young people who undergo an online training. (Read more and watch a video about the study here).

We are looking for 14-18 years-old adolescents who will get a chance to undergo either a free 12-week mindfulness training, in which they will learn self-regulation skills (breathing, yoga-based movements, meditation) or a free 12-week psychological education training that can help them better regulate emotions (with a random assignment to one of the groups). The groups will meet once-per-week for 1.5 hours online via Zoom.

Participants also undergo a 1-hour MRI scan before and after the training. MRI scans take place at a state-of-the-art UCSF facility at Mission Bay. Participants receive up to $320 in gift cards for completion of the study.

Please note that at the 1st MRI scan participants are randomly assigned to one of two groups, with an equal chance of being assigned to either group. The current groups started in September 2023, with one of the groups taking place on Thursdays at 4:30pm and the other one on Fridays at 4:30pm. The groups are 1.5h long and take place weekly, over 12 weeks. Our tentative plan is to start the next training groups in February 2024.

Please fill out the BrainChange Introductory Survey if you are interested and would like to get more information. If you have more questions please email us at [email protected].

We'll have more groups in the future, so if the schedule doesn't work for you this time, we can keep you posted about the groups in the future. Also in that case, it would be easiest if you fill out our BrainChange Introductory Survey.

BrainChange TARA group setup

BrainChange Study Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria


  • Depressed female and male adolescents, 14-18 years old.
  • Fluency in English.
  • Being under the care of a primary care provider or a mental health provider.
  • Access to a smartphone, a tablet or a computer, on which program “Zoom” can be run for remote participation in the intervention.


  • Subjects younger or older than 14-18 years old.
  • Subjects who have a significant medical disorder or mental health disorder other than a DSM-5 depressive disorder or a depressive disorder with a comorbid anxiety disorder.
  • Subjects who are taking any psychotropic medication other than one of the first-line selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant medications (i.e., fluoxetine, escitalopram, sertraline).
  • MRI contraindications (metallic objects on or inside the body, e.g., braces), some types of tatoos, and pregnancy.
  • Current mindfulness training (e.g. MBSR, MBCT, DBT) and/or practice with a typically sitting meditation or yoga of 20 or more minutes two or more times per week within 60 days prior to study entry.
  • Potential adolescent subjects with current drug or alcohol use or dependence that, in the opinion of the site investigator, would interfere with adherence to the study requirements will be excluded and not allowed to enter the study.
  • Potential subjects with an inability or unwillingness to give written informed assent or whose legal guardian/representative are unable or unwilling to give written informed consent will be excluded and not allowed to enter the study.


Please fill out the BrainChange Introductory Survey if you are interested and would like to get more information. If you have more questions please email us at [email protected].

BrainChange Study Forms

Please contact us to receive the Consent and Assent forms.

Flyer (pdf)

MRI screening form (pdf)

Clinical trial information

Other Studies

Open-Label Placebo (OLP) Study (currently recruiting)

The purpose  of  our UCSF Open-Label Placebo (OLP) study  is  to  see  how  placebo  can  affect  the  brain  and  well-being  of  depressed adolescents. A placebo is a dummy pill with no medicine in it all, which is made to look just like the pill with active medicine, so the person taking the pill does not know if the pill has real medicine in it (active medication) or has no medicine in it (the placebo). Please fill out the OLP Study Introductory Survey if you are interested and would like to get more information. If you have more questions please email us at [email protected].

Flyer (pdf)

MRI screening form (pdf)

Clinical trial information

Our Team

Olga Tymofiyeva, PhD - Dept. of Radiology - Principal Investigator

Tony Yang, MD, PhD - Dept. of Psychiatry - Co-Principal Investigator

Tiffany Ngan, BSc - Dept. of Radiology - Staff Research Associate

Angela Jakary, BA - Dept. of Radiology - Staff Research Associate

Tara Samson, BA - Dept. of Radiology - Assistant Specialist

Eva Henje Blom, MD, PhD - University of Umea, Sweden - Creator of the "Training of Awareness, Resilience and Action" (TARA)


Benjamin Sipes, MS - Dept. of Radiology - Assistant Specialist

Nikita Shah, BA - Dept. of Radiology - Clinical Research Coordinator

Namasvi Jariwala, MA - Dept. of Radiology - Senior Clinical Research Coordinator

Kendall Parks, BA - Dept. of Neurology - Clinical Research Coordinator

Justin Yuan, BA - Dept. of Radiology - Assistant Specialist

Tony Yang, MD, PhD, and Olga Tymofiyeva, PhD, are leading UCSF’s Brain Change study.

Photo: Walter Zarnowitz