UWM gets ‘unprecedented opportunity’ to join national child brain study

UWM is joining the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States.

The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study by the National Institutes of Health will follow the biological and behavioral development of more than 10,000 children beginning at ages 9 or 10, through adolescence and into early adulthood.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for Wisconsin to be involved in a study of this scale,” said Krista Lisdahl, a UWM associate professor of psychology who is heading up the UWM site, one of 21 across the nation.

“The results will give vital insight into how family dynamics, environment, lifestyle and health behaviors affect our children’s development for generations to come. This information can help us optimize child and adolescent cognitive and social development.”

Adolescence is a time of extraordinary physical, emotional and intellectual growth as well as a changing social environment that help shape a young person’s adult identity and well-being. This study aims to document how adolescent experiences – such as participation in extracurricular activities, playing video games, sleep habits, head injuries from sports, experimentation with alcohol, tobacco and marijuana – affect development and vice versa.

Over the course of the next decade, scientists will use advanced brain imaging, interviews and behavioral testing to determine how childhood experiences interact with each other and with a child’s changing biology to affect brain development and — ultimately — social, behavioral, academic, health and other outcomes.

Understanding these relationships may help reveal the biological and environmental building blocks that best contribute to successful and resilient young adults.

Families that volunteer will be part of groundbreaking research that promises to inform future educational strategies, research priorities, public health interventions and science-based policy decisions.

Lisdahl specializes in studying the impact of health behaviors, such as physical activity and substance use, on brain health during adolescence and young adulthood using methods that include brain scanning with magnetic resonance imaging. In 2012, she was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Barack Obama and the NIH.

University researchers will work with elementary schools during the next two years to recruit families for the study.

UWM scientists will be working with schools in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties to recruit starting in January.

Schools will be approached on a rolling schedule throughout the next 20 months, and ABCD Study recruitment fliers will be sent home or through email. Some families will be recruited through mailings to their home. Families will participate at UWM once a year and will be paid for their time.

For more information about UWM’s involvement, go to the UWM portion of the study’s website. The website also includes a map of all the participating sites in the U.S.


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