Parents of tweens and teens often wish they could peer inside their child’s brain, to figure out what makes them tick or what’s troubling them.
So do scientists who are trying to understand the human brain, and how it develops.
Now, a new national study will try to do just that, on a grand scale involving more than 10,000 young people nationwide. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, and called the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, it launches today at sites across the Unites States.
One of those sites – the only one in Michigan – is the University of Michigan Medical School. U-M has long studied the brain using the kind of advanced MRI imaging techniques and in-depth interviews that the new study will use.
But, says co-lead U-M researcher Mary Heitzeg, Ph.D., the ABCD study will take that work to a new level because of the size, scope and length of the research. Heitzeg is a psychologist and neuroscientist in the U-M Medical School Department of Psychiatry.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to work with families to seek answers to questions that our society has pondered for years, including how our early experiences and factors such as sleep, sports, drugs and alcohol affect brain development and vice versa,” she says.
Starting this week, Heitzeg and her team will start enrolling the first of more than 550 children who are currently ages 9 or 10 and go to school in the portion of southeast Michigan surrounding Ann Arbor. They’ll continue seeking new 9 and 10 year olds from this area for the next two years.