Child & Adolescent Translational Science Lab

Directed by Katie Insel, PhD

opening summer 2024


We study child and adolescent brain development.

Our research investigates how motivation, learning, and decision-making change as individuals mature from childhood to adulthood.

To answer these questions, the lab uses novel experimental tasks, functional neuroimaging, and computational modeling.

In addition to conducting research, we are committed to the translation of science for society. We work with policy-makers, educators, and clinicians to help translate basic science to inform real world applications.


The decisions that adolescents make, and the actions that they take, have substantial consequences for their immediate and long-term wellbeing.

While adolescence is characterized by unique opportunities for learning and growth, adolescents sometimes make maladaptive decisions, which can put their mental and physical health at risk.

How do adolescents navigate this tension between opportunity and vulnerability? How does ongoing brain development shape both adaptive and maladaptive behaviors?

MEAsuring brain development

Patient Getting an MRI

To understand how the brain develops, we invite kids, teens, and adults to the lab to participate in brain imaging studies.

Cross section of the brain during magnetic resonance imaging on a computer screen. Few pictures of the image of the brain. MRI - CT scan.

We use non-invasive methods, like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to measure how the brain responds when people complete tasks that index behaviors like learning and decision-making.

Meet Our Team!

Katie Insel, PhD, lab director

Katie is an incoming Assistant Professor in Northwestern's Department of Psychology.

Starting summer 2024, she will be the director of the Child and Adolescent Translational Science Lab.

She received her PhD from Harvard, and she conducted postdoctoral research at Columbia. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Curriculum Vitae

Our team is growing!

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Meet Mochi!

Lab mascot & NU's newest wildcat!

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Join Our Team!

PhD Students

We will be reviewing PhD applications this cycle, to start September 2024. Learn more about Northwestern's PhD program and how to apply. Dr. Insel will be admitting students through the Brain, Behavior, and Cognition area through the Department of Psychology on the Evanston campus. Please reach out if you have any questions!

Please note that because I am new incoming faculty starting in fall of 2024, my name Is not yet in the application portal. Please select "undecided" and enter my name in the space provided on the next page of the application.

Lab Manager

The lab Is looking to hire it's first lab manager to start August 2024! Please e-mail us to learn more about how to apply.

Postdoctoral Fellow

We are recruiting a postdoc to help with a NIH funded research study examining how brain development shapes learning and memory. If you are interested in learning fMRI and computational modeling, this could be a great fit for you!


Cohen, A. O. & Insel, C. (2023) More than just a phase: adolescence as a window into how the brain generates behavior. PsyArXiv.

Insel C.*, Tabashneck, S.*, Shen, F.X., Edersheim, J.G., & Kinscherff, R.T. (2022). White Paper on the Science of Late Adolescence: A Guide for Judges, Attorneys, and Policy Makers. Center for Law, Brain, & Behavior.

Rodman A., Powers K.E., Insel C., Kastman E.K., Stark A., Kabotyanski K.E., & Somerville L.H. (2021). How adolescents and adults translate value to action: Age-related shifts in strategic physical effort exertion for monetary rewards. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 150(1), 103-113.

Kearns, J.C.*, Coppersmith, D.D.L.*, Santee, A.C., Insel, C., Pigeon, W.R., & Glenn, C.R. (2020). Sleep problems and suicide risk in youth: A systematic review, developmental framework, and implications for hospital treatment. General Hospital Psychiatry, 63, 141-151.

Insel, C., Charifson, M., & Somerville, L. H. (2019). Neurodevelopmental shifts in learned value transfer on cognitive control during adolescence. Developmental cognitive neuroscience, 40, 100730.

Martin, R.E., Silvers, J.A., Hardi, F., Stephano, T., Helion, C., Insel, C., Franz, P.J., Ninova, E., Lander, J.P., Mischel, W., Casey, B.J., & Ochsner, K.N. (2019). Longitudinal Changes in Brain Structures Related to Appetitive Reactivity and Regulation Across Development. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 100675.

Insel, C.*, Glenn, C.*, Nock, M., & Somerville, L.H. (2019). Aberrant striatal tracking of reward magnitude in youth with current or past-year depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 128(1), 44-56.

Insel, C. & Somerville, L.H. (2018). Asymmetric neural tracking of gain and loss magnitude during adolescence. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 13(8), 785-796.

Insel, C., Davidow, J.Y., & Somerville, L.H. (2018). Neurodevelopmental processes that shape the emergence of value-guided goal directed behavior. Forthcoming in The Cognitive Neurosciences VI (Gazzaniga, Mangun, & Poeppel, Eds.).

Davidow, J.Y.*, Insel, C.*, & Somerville, L.H. (2018). Adolescent development of value-guided goal pursuit. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 22(8), 725-736.

Lee, N.C.*, Weeda, W.D.*, Insel, C., Krabbendam, L., Somerville, L.H., & Huizinga, M. (2018). The influence of emotional cues on cognitive control in high and low risk-taking adolescents. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 31, 20-34.

Insel, C., Kastman, E.K., Glenn, C.R., & Somerville, L.H. (2017). Development of corticostriatal connectivity constrains goal directed behavior during adolescence. Nature communications, 8, 1605.

Somerville, L.H., Sasse, S.F., Garrad, M.C., Drysdale, A.T., Akar, N.A., Insel, C., & Wilson, R.C. (2017). Charting the expansion of strategic exploratory behavior during adolescence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 146 (2), 155.

Silvers, J.A., Insel, C., Powers, A., Franz, P., Helion, C., Weber, J., Casey, B.J., Mischel, W., & Ochsner, K.N. (2017). The transition from childhood to adolescence is marked by a general decrease in amygdala reactivity and an affect-specific ventral-to-dorsal shift in medial prefrontal recruitment. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 25, 128-137.

Silvers, J.A., Insel, C., Powers, A., Franz, P., Helion, C., Weber, J., Casey, B.J., Mischel, W., & Ochsner, K.N. (2016). vlPFC-vmPFC-amygdala circuit underlies age-related differences in cognitive regulation of emotion. Cerebral Cortex, 27(7), 3502-3514.

Silvers, J.A., Insel, C., Powers, A., Franz, P., Weber, J., Casey, B.J., Mischel, W., & Ochsner, K.N. (2014). Curbing craving: Behavioral and brain evidence that children regulate craving when instructed to do so but have higher baseline craving that adults. Psychological Science, 25(10), 1932-1942.

Insel, C., Reinen, J., Weber, J., Wager, T. D., Jarskog, L. F., Shohamy, D., & Smith, E. E. (2014). Antipsychotic dose modulates behavioral and neural responses to feedback during reinforcement learning in schizophrenia. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 14(1), 189-201.

Reinen, J., Smith, E. E., Insel, C., Kribs, R., Shohamy, D., Wager, T. D., & Jarskog, L. F. (2014). Patients with schizophrenia are impaired when learning in the context of pursuing rewards. Schizophrenia Research, 152(1), 309.

Eich, T. S., Nee, D. E., Insel, C., Malapani, C., & Smith, E. E. (2013). Neural correlates of impaired cognitive control over working memory in schizophrenia. Biological Psychiatry, 76(2), 146–153.

Contact us!

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To contact the lab director, please e-mail:

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The lab will open in Cresap Laboratory during summer 2024!

Our team is growing!

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