Large study on how substance use affects young brains launched

Washington, Sep 26 (IANS) The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Friday awarded 13 grants to research institutions around the country as part of a landmark study about the effects of adolescent substance use on the developing brain.

The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study will follow approximately 10,000 children beginning at ages nine to 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, an NIH release said.

“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, 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,” Volkow noted.

The study explore nagging issues such as impact of occasional versus regular use of marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, and other substances on the structure and function of the developing brain, how the use of specific substances impacts the risk for using other substances, and their effects on social behaviour and mental health of the children, among other issues.

“The ABCD study is an important opportunity to closely examine, in humans, the hypothesised link between adolescent alcohol abuse and long-term harmful effects on brain development and function,” George Koob, director of NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), pointed out.

The 13 grants issued on Friday will fund a coordinating centre, a data analysis and informatics centre, and 11 research project sites.

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