The University of Florida will participate in a landmark study of the effect of substance use on the developing brain. The National Institutes of Health Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study will follow approximately 10,000 children beginning at ages 9 to 10, before they initiate drug use, through the period of highest risk for substance use and other mental health disorders.
A team of investigators from UF and the University of Michigan was selected as one of 11 sites of the ABCD Study, which is supported by about $25 million a year in grants across the national consortium. ABCD Florida is funded by a $4.5 million award and will be led by principal investigators Linda B. Cottler, Ph.D., M.P.H., dean’s professor and founding chair of the department of epidemiology in the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine, and Sara Jo Nixon, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and psychology and co-vice chair of the College of Medicine department of psychiatry.
“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,” Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in a news release. “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.”
Scientists will track participants’ exposure to substances, such as nicotine, alcohol and marijuana, along with their academic achievement, cognitive skills, mental health, and brain structure and function.
The UF team aims to follow 400 adolescents from the North Central Florida area initially over a five-year period, and ultimately over 10 years, to determine the effects of substance use on adolescent brain and cognitive development using multimodal brain imaging, cognitive and clinical assessments, bioassays, mobile monitoring, and careful assessment of substance use, environment, psychopathology and social functioning.
The research will involve a multi-disciplinary effort by scientists and core services across the University of Florida, including the College of Medicine, the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
“This research presents an exciting opportunity to identify pathways to substance use and its effects on child and adolescent development, which is critically important as the effects of substance use during these early developmental years will likely have long-lasting effects on brain functioning and behavioral, health and psychological outcomes,” said Cottler, PHHP’s associate dean for research. “Both departments are proud to launch this landmark study at UF.”