Longitudinal Study to Examine Adolescent Brain Development

By Joetta Sack-Min

The National Institutes of Health is launching a 10-year, multifaceted study on adolescent brain development that could provide important clues to how students learn and grow.

As the largest effort ever undertaken on this topic, the study will include about 10,000 children and will follow 9- and 10-year-olds into early adulthood to look at the impact of both genetics and environmental factors on brain development. The study seeks to set standards for brain development and help doctors identify risk factors that could lead to issues such as depression, substance abuse, lower academic achievement.

By following a large number of children over a long period of time, researchers may see consistent patterns that lead to the achievement gap, said Dr. Gaya Dowling, the NIH project director who presented a webinar today explaining the study to Learning First Alliance member organizations and partners.

The researchers also hope to measure the impact of a wide range of childhood experiences, such as sports injuries and video games, plus examine how factors such as ADHD medications, sleep patterns, smoking, or drinking coffee interact with a child’s biological development, Dr. Dowling added. These factors could have notable ramifications for learning, social and emotional development, behavior, and health.

To conduct the study, NIH has partnered with 19 research sites across the country that are recruiting families at local schools. In addition, 800 sets of twins will participate in the research.

The results will provide parents, educators, health professionals and policymakers with practical information to promote the health, well-being, and success of children. Learn more about the study at http://abcdstudy.org/.

Image via ABCD Study.

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