Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis will play a major role in the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in U.S. history. The landmark study will follow the biological and behavioral development of more than 10,000 children, beginning when the kids are 9 to 10 years old. Scientists studying the adolescents will use advanced brain imaging, interviews and behavioral testing to see how childhood experiences can affect a childs changing biology, brain development and, ultimately, social, behavioral, academic and health outcomes. If the researchers can get a better understanding of the relationships between such factors, they may be able to predict and prevent, or even reverse, potential problems in development.
WE ARENT BORN WITH FULLY-DEVELOPED BRAINS. IN FACT, BRAIN DEVELOPMENT CONTINUES FOR YEARS. AND RESEARCHERS AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS WILL PLAY A BIG ROLE IN A NEW NIH-FUNDED STUDY OF BRAIN DEVELOPMENT IN ADOLESCENTS. THE SO-CALLED ABCD STUDY WILL BE THE LARGEST OF ITS KIND EVER, FOLLOWING MORE THAN 10,000 CHILDREN FROM AGE 9 OR 10 INTO EARLY ADULTHOOD. JIM DRYDEN REPORTS
A WHOLE LOT OF THINGS INFLUENCE BRAIN DEVELOPMENT: FAMILY BACKGROUND, SOCIO-ECONOMIC GROUP, AND A GREAT DEAL OF GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT OCCURS DURING ADOLESCENCE. NOW, THE NIH HAS LAUNCHED AN AMBITIOUS PROJECT TO KEEP TRACK OF SOME OF THE THINGS THAT INFLUENCE HEALTHY, AND UNHEALTHY, BRAIN DEVELOPMENT. RESEARCHERS AT 19 CENTERS, INCLUDING WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, WILL SCAN THE BRAINS OF YOUNG PEOPLE, CONDUCT INTERVIEWS AND DO BEHAVIORAL TESTING TO LEARN HOW ENVIRONMENT, BEHAVIOR AND GENETICS INTERACT TO INFLUENCE BRAIN DEVELOPMENT. WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY NEUROSCIENTIST DEANNA BARCH SAYS THEYLL BE LOOKING AT
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Factors that promote both health brain development in children
and the factors that lead brain development to go awry and to
put kids at risk for a variety of mental health or other challenges
later in life.
AND BARCH SAYS THE RESEARCHERS WILL CONSIDER PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING.
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Things like peers and social supports and families, and how those
help promote healthy brain development; factors related to the
activities that kids engage in sports and music and after-school
activities but to also try to understand what happens when kids
engage in behaviors that may be less good for them. You know, if
they use substances or other things that might interfere with healthy
brain development and behavior.
ONE KEY PART OF THE STUDY WILL INVOLVE FOLLOWING TWINS. THE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY TEAM IS ONE OF FOUR INVOLVED IN THIS STUDY THAT IS SPECIFICALLY RECRUITING PAIRS OF TWINS. BY STUDYING THE BRAINS AND BEHAVIOR OF THOSE TWIN PAIRS, AND BY RECRUITING TWINS OF EVERY RACE, ETHNICITY AND ECONOMIC BACKGROUND, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY GENETICS RESEARCHER ANDREW HEATH SAYS THE PROJECT SHOULD BE ABLE TO LEARN A GREAT DEAL ABOUT HOW GENETICS INFLUENCE BRAIN DEVELOPMENT.
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We are going to be able to achieve a breadth of race and ethnic
diversity that has never before been possible: Hispanic pairs,
African-American pairs, Asian pairs, as well as white non-Hispanic
pairs. Thats a really exciting aspect of this study. Its going to
allow us to look at the genetics of brain development in a truly
THE IDEA, SAYS WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY RESEARCHERS PAMELA MADDEN IS TO GET A LARGE, AND REPRESENTATIVE SAMPLE OF KIDS.
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In addition to twins throughout the state, we are reaching more
locally to school districts. We are interested in coming up with
a representative sample of the St. Louis, and the broader
BUT WHEN ITS ALL SAID AND DONE, HEATH SAYS THE PROJECT SHOULD HELP RESEARCHERS LEARN WHAT CONSTITUTES NORMAL BRAIN DEVELOPMENT SO THAT THEY MAY BE ABLE TO SPOT AT-RISK KIDS AT VERY YOUNG AGES.
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Who are the high-risk kids? What are the factors that identify
someone, when theyre 9 or 10? I think that, in itself, is going
to be very helpful to advance our understanding. Who are the
high-risk kids? Because once we know that, we can do much more
to understand how do we help the high-risk kids?
THE ABCD, THATS ADOLESCENT BRAIN COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT, STUDY WILL FOLLOW THE CHILDREN FOR AT LEAST 10 YEARS. IM JIM DRYDEN…