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.


BrainChange Study

The goal of our UCSF BrainChange study is to use MRI imaging to observe brain changes in healthy young people who undergo a mindfulness training.

We are looking for healthy adolescents of age 14-18 years who will get a chance to undergo a free 12-week mindfulness training, in which they will learn self-regulation skills (breathing, yoga-based movements, meditation) that can help them relax and better regulate emotions. The group will meet weekly for 1.5 hours remotely via Zoom.

Participants will also undergo a 1-hour MRI scan before and after the training. MRI scans will take place at a state-of-the-art UCSF facility at Mission Bay. Participants will receive up to $220 in gift cards for completion of the study.

We are planning to have three groups in 2021/2022, starting in February 2021. Please fill out the Introductory Survey if you are interested and would like to get more information. If you have more questions please email us at [email protected].

Please note that at the 1st MRI scan participants will be randomly assigned to one of two groups, with an equal chance of being assigned to either group. One group will begin with the 12-session training over the following 12 weeks (training group). The other group will wait for 12 weeks without undergoing the training (control group). The participants in the control group will get a chance to do the training after the 2nd MRI has been performed (there will be multiple options for group schedule).

BrainChange TARA group setup

BrainChange Study Exclusion Criteria

An important aspect is the exclusion criteria for our study:

  • Subjects younger or older than 14-18 years old.
  • Non-English speaker.
  • Being clinically diagnosed with any significant medical disorder that would prevent the candidate from performing yoga-based movements (e.g., cerebral palsy), neurological disorder (e.g., multiple sclerosis, severe head trauma) or mental health disorder (e.g., psychosis, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, anorexia nervosa, PTSD) or having intellectual disability, or suicidal ideation or attempt in past 3 months. While we are currently not including candidates diagnosed with major depressive disorder, future groups will include participants with this daignosis - please contact us if you would like to find out about the future groups.
  • Subjects who are taking any psychotropic medication.
  • MRI contraindications (ferromagnetic objects on or inside the body, e.g., BRACES) 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.
  • Current drug or alcohol use or dependence that, in the opinion of the site investigator, would interfere with adherence to the study requirements.
  • Being unable to attend MRI scans or more than 3 classes of the training.

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

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 email us at [email protected] to be contacted regarding eligibility (please mention in your email that you are interested in the Placebo study).

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

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

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

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

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

Eva Henje Blom, MD, PhD - Dept. of Psychiatry - Lead Instructor, creator of the "Training of Awareness, Resilience and Action" (TARA)