Skip to Main Content

Developmental Neurocognitive Driving Simulation Research Center (DrivSim Lab)


To understand the neural basis of driving behavior and risk processes during adolescence and emerging adulthood and to develop individually tailored interventions to promote safe driving.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults. Research on adolescent drivers indicates that brain development and mastery of driving tasks lag behind the increased responsibility that teens experience as they learn to drive. Driving a car is a highly complex task that is influenced by a variety of neurocognitive capacities as well as social and contextual factors (i.e. peer influence) that can produce more or less risky driving.

Yale DrivSim Lab Uses Simulation to Study Young Drivers

The Yale DrivSim Lab (Developmental Neurocognitive Driving Simulation Research Center) is an innovative driver simulation research center that applies expertise in crash injury and prevention, adolescent psychology, and brain science to the study of crash risk among teens and young adult drivers. Simply, “the mission of the lab is to understand behavior, brain development, and how the brain functions for adolescents and young adults as they learn to drive,” said Dr. Federico Vaca, director of the lab. The end-goal: to curb the number of injury-causing crashes among the young and to make them safer drivers sooner.

DrivSim Lab

The DrivSim Lab couples High-Fidelity Driving Simulation with Dense Array EEG Brain Imaging and Eye Tracking technologies. Research investigation focuses on more comprehensive study and characterization of neurocognitive and behavioral processes of adolescents and young adults within the complexities of the driving context.

High-Fidelity Driving Simulation

The DrivSim Lab uses a ½ - cab vehicle configuration simulator that is PC-based and provides high-fidelity simulation of vehicle dynamics. Powerful simulator software allows DrivSim Lab researchers to develop, design, and implement driving scenarios that are focused on the research areas of interest. The simulator also captures real-time driver video, acquires a multitude of driving behavior metrics, and tracks as well as automatically performs computations on important driving measures (e.g. average speed, standard deviation of speed, standard deviation of lateral position, lane departure count and percentage, average headway).

Dense Array EEG Brain Imaging

The DrivSim Lab has a fully integrated gel-based high-density electroencephalogram (EEG) system. EEG allows for high-fidelity recording of real-time brain responses to events unfolding in custom experimental paradigms within driving simulations. Through the simulator, investigators approach brain function with an ecologically sensitive context to elicit brain signals, including event-related potentials and event-related oscillations, reflecting perception, attention, decision-making and hazard detection. The DrivSim Lab also employs a full battery of established neurocognitive EEG paradigms outside of the driving context to predict performance under driving situations of varying demands, such as distracted and impaired driving.

Eye Tracking

With integrated head mounted eye-tracking linked to simultaneous EEG recording and high-fidelity driving simulation, DrivSim Lab researchers can measure eye-gaze behavior that unfolds during driving scenarios. The eye-tracker provides an important behavioral measure that allows for linking brain responses to behavior.