Dr. Terry Jernigan Speaking:
Hello I'm Terry Jernigan, professor at the University of California San Diego and the co-director of the coordinating Center for the ABCD study.
I'm trained as a cognitive neuroscientist and clinical psychologist and for the past decade my primary research interest has been the developing human brain and the emergence of individual differences in cognitive and emotional traits.
ABCD is the adolescent brain and cognitive development study a large-scale long-term study of children and adolescents conducted by investigator throughout the United States.
Over 10,000 children will be studied with comprehensive assessments of health and mental health, neuro cognition culture and environment activities and habits and a sophisticated neuroimaging protocol to assess the biological and functional development of the brain.
The children will be enrolled at 9 or 10 years of age and we hope to follow them for 10 years into young adulthood.
Our goal is to ensure that in every way possible this large group of children will have diverse backgrounds that closely mirror those of the entire population of children of this age in the United States to have a chance of reaching every child in every community surrounding our 19 sites.
We will work primarily with schools to contact families with eligible children though we will use other methods to contact families in some cases.
There are many reasons why it's important to begin this study now, but I'd like to highlight three of them that I think we're particularly compelling.
First several maturing technologies have made it possible to collect large scale highly informative datasets unobtrusively.
In observational studies like this with developing youth and these include powerful brain imaging methods that allow us to measure many important characteristics of the biology and function of the brain in a short imaging session that is acceptable to children and even fun at times.
And other important technologies include new game-like methods for measuring children's behavior wearable devices for gathering activity and physiologicaldata in real time and methods for assessing genetic variation precisely from a bit of saliva.
A second important reason is the maturing scientific workforce, and that is partly growth of expertise in the use of these research technologies, but also the formation of teams of behavioral biomechanical and data science experts who have experience working together on multi-site studies with high dimensional data.
And finally, it is very clear that many rapid changes in our culture leave us with critical questions about their effects on the developing brain particularly of adolescents.
And these include trends like intensifying use of wireless and mobile devices and other screens in all aspects of our lives.
Increasingly competitive sporting activity that may in some cases place children an increased risk of injury.
And of course we all know that there are widespread changes throughout our country in policies and practices regarding drugs, particularly marijuana and many new forms and varieties of cannabis, nicotine products, and synthetic drugs with unknown effects on the developing brain and on the learning that young people need to do.
So these are a few of the most important reasons to embark upon this project now
We hope to learn more about the normal limits for individual developmental trajectories of brain development and use.
We also hope to learn about factors that have an impact either by increasing resilience or increasing risk on individual trajectories of brain cognitive and emotional development and academic progress.
We hope to learn about the relative roles of genetic versus environmental factors on development as well as more about the interactions between these.
For example by analysis of data from 800 twin pairs we hope to learn about the effects of health, physical activity, sleep, as well as sports and other injuries on brain development and other outcomes.
We hope to learn more about factors that influence the onset and progression of mental disorders and substance use disorders and specifically how exposure to various levels and patterns of alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, caffeine, and other substances affect developmental outcomes and how other factors modify these effects.
This information is important, actually critical, for more effectively preventing, mitigating, and treating, behavioral disorders by allowing us to target the truly causal factors and personalize these approaches
in a way that reflects growing knowledge that risk and resilience will take different forms in different individuals.
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