About the Roybal Center for Behavioral Interventions in Aging

The Roybal Center for Behavioral Interventions in Aging at the USC Schaeffer Center conducts research that advances healthy aging for older adults who are economically insecure, culturally diverse, and historically under-served. The Roybal Center develops and tests interventions based on insights from behavioral science to promote healthy aging.  The Roybal Center aims to strengthen the ability of clinicians to choose or recommend the safest and most effective treatments for their patients through the use of behavioral insights—nudges— that are developed through the center. Ultimately, the Roybal Center will address some of the country’s most pressing population health concerns that are driven by overuse of medical services and under use of comparatively effective services.

Mission | To develop simple interventions based on insights from behavioral science to promote healthy aging.

Specific Aims

  • Conduct behavioral intervention development and implementation to encourage appropriate medical treatment decisions through the use of behavioral insights from psychology and economics.
  • Leverage simulation modeling to select interventions with the greatest potential to impact population health.
  • Translate these findings for policymakers who influence aging policy.


The Roybal Center funds one post-doctoral fellow to work on research that advances the behavioral sciences.  The selected post-doc has access to mentorship and a broad array of resources and data available through the Schaeffer Center.

Jehan Sparks, PhD
Post-doctoral fellow, USC Schaeffer Center and UCLA Anderson School of Management
Sparks investigates how people get “stuck” in certain ways of thinking—like a negative (vs. positive) frame or a thought of what could have been worse (vs. better)—and the contextual factors that enable people to get unstuck and think more flexibly.

Current Roybal Center Pilot Awardees

A Clinician-Focused Nudging Intervention to Optimize Post-Surgical Prescribing
PI: Daniel B. Larach, MD, MTR, MA
There are considerable data that postoperative opioids are commonly prescribed in excessive amounts but few evidence-based techniques to optimize such prescribing. The specific objectives of this study are to (1) evaluate the hypothesis that a novel nudge intervention will reduce excess postoperative opioid prescribing; and (2) determine whether this technique affects opioid consumption, refill requests, medical visits for pain, analgesia satisfaction, and opioid misuse. 

Wändi Bruine de Bruin, MSc, PhD

Helping Hypertension Patients to Interpret Blood Pressure Readings
PI: Wandi Bruine de Bruin, PhD 
We will evaluate different ways for helping hypertension patients to interpret their blood pressure readings and motivate blood pressure control, in hypertension patients varying in health literacy, age, and socio-economic status. Our strategy is based on insights from behavioral science studies, which suggest that people find it easier to interpret numbers when they can see the range of possible numbers.

More information about current and past pilot awardees can be found here. Applications for the June 1, 2022-May 31, 2023 period close January 3, 2022. Information about the application process can be found here.

Gamification to Improve Physical Activity in Seniors at Risk for Alzheimer’s (PI: Ryan Greysen, MD, MHS)

Increased physical activity by walking further or more vigorously may prevent or delay the development of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) but reaching higher levels of activity and maintaining it as a long-term habit is difficult to do. This project will use concepts from behavioral science to create a mobility game that people at risk for developing ADRD can play in order to increase their levels of activity while having fun doing it. Gamification will be used to motivate, reinforce, and sustain higher physical activity levels compared to a control group which receives only devices but no gamification.


Jason Doctor, PhD
Co-Principal Investigator, Roybal Center for Behavioral Interventions in Aging
Co-Director, Behavioral Sciences Program, USC Schaeffer Center
Norman Topping Chair in Medicine and Public Policy, USC Price School of Public Policy

Dana Goldman

Dana Goldman, PhD
Co-Principal Investigator, Roybal Center for Behavioral Interventions in Aging
Director, USC Schaeffer Center
Distinguished Professor of Public Policy, Pharmacy & Economics, USC School of Pharmacy and the USC Price School of Public Policy

Daniella Meeker

Daniella Meeker, PhD
Co-Investigator and Pilot Core Director, Roybal Center for Behavioral Interventions in Aging
Fellow, USC Schaeffer Center
Assistant Professor, Department of Preventive Medicine, Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine of USC

Barbara Turner, PhD
Co-Investigator and Clinical Advisor, Roybal Center for Behavioral Interventions in Aging 
Senior Fellow, USC Schaeffer Center
Clinical Professor, Medicine, USC Gehr Family Center for Health Systems Science and Innovation, Keck School of Medicine of USC

Rebecca Trotzky-Sirr, MD
Co-Investigator, Roybal Center for Behavioral Interventions in Aging 
Assistant Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine

This project is supported by the National Institute on Aging under the National Institutes of Health, award number 2P30AG024968-17.  The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.