Combining results from 628 children's brains, this MRI scan shows regions activated as faces are viewed (yellow and orange) and other areas (blue and cyan) activated during a demanding working memory task.
Chya (pronounced SHY-a), who is not quite 10 years old, recently spent an unusual day at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Part of the time she was in a "cool" brain scanner while playing video games designed to test her memory and other brain-related skills. At other points, she answered lots of questions about her life and health on an iPad.
A slender Baltimore third grader who likes drawing, hip hop, and playing with her pet Chihuahua, Chya is one of more than 6800 children now enrolled in an unprecedented examination of teenage brain development. The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study—or ABCD Study—will complete its 2-year enrollment period in September, and this month will release a trove of data from 4500 early participants into a freely accessible, anonymized database. Ultimately, the study aims to follow 10,000 children for a decade as they grow from 9- and 10-year-olds into young adults.
Supported by the first chunk of $300 million pledged by several institutes at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, teams at 21 sites around the United States are regularly using MRI machines to record the structure and activity of these young brains. They're also collecting reams of psychological, cognitive, and environmental data about each child, along with biological specimens such as their DNA. In addition to providing the first standardized benchmarks of healthy adolescent brain development, this information should allow scientists to probe how substance use, sports injuries, screen time, sleep habits, and other influences may affect—or be affected by—a maturing brain.
"A lot of studies in this area are plagued by the fact that we tend to capture teenagers after they have already started to misbehave in various ways. So, the fact that we are following kids from … before they engage in a lot of risk-taking behavior—it's going to be an incredibly rich data set," says clinical neuroscientist Monica Luciana of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, an ABCD Study site where she is a principal investigator (PI).
“这一领域的很多研究都困扰于以下的事实：我们倾向于在青少年已经开始出现各种不端行为之后拽住他们。所以，事实上，我们正在孩子们从事大量的冒险行为之前用就开始一直跟踪他们了。”明尼苏达大学的临床神经科学家Monica Luciana说，“这将是一个极为丰富的数据系统。”Monica Luciana是ABCD研究的某站点的首席研究员。
Clarifying the impacts of alcohol and drug use is a key goal for the study's leading funders: the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), both in Bethesda. "There is an urgency to try to address these questions," says NIDA Director Nora Volkow, the prime mover behind the study. The recent legalization of recreational marijuana in several states makes the study especially timely, she argues.
Other studies have used MRI to follow teen brain development. Europe's IMAGEN enrolled 2000 14-year-olds and scanned them at intervals over the past decade. And NIAAA has been funding a study of alcohol's impacts, imaging the brains of more than 800 youths once a year for 4 years. But ABCD "is going to be by far the largest," Volkow says. "It's [also] longer-lasting, starts younger, and is much more comprehensive" in terms of testing.