The NIH has awarded 13 grants to research institutions around the country as part of a study about the effects of adolescent substance use on the developing brain. The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study will follow about 10,000 children beginning at ages 9 and 10, before they initiate drug use, through the period of highest risk for substance use and other mental health disorders. Scientists will track exposure to substances (including nicotine, alcohol and marijuana), academic achievement, cognitive skills, mental health and brain structure and function using advanced research methods.
“With advances in neuroimaging and other investigative tools, we will be able to look in greater detail at the impact of substance use on young people,” said Nora Volkow, M.D., director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “Adolescents have access to high potency marijuana and greater varieties of nicotine delivery devices than previous generations. We want to know how that and other trends affect the trajectory of the developing brain.”
“The ABCD Study is an important opportunity to closely examine, in humans, the hypothesized link between adolescent alcohol abuse and long-term harmful effects on brain development and function,” said George Koob, Ph.D., director of NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). “Recent human studies have revealed an acceleration in the typical decline in volume of neocortical areas and smaller increases in white matter volume in adolescents who transitioned to heavy drinking compared to those who did not using magnetic resonance imaging.”
The 13 grants issued will fund a Coordinating Center, a Data Analysis and Informatics Center, and 11 research project sites. The ABCD Study was initiated by the Collaborative Research on Addiction at NIH (CRAN), a consortium of institutes that include a focus on addiction research. CRAN is comprised of NIDA, NIAAA and the National Cancer Institute. Other NIH collaborators in the project are the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.