Press Release, National Institutes of Health

The National Institutes of Health announced today that enrollment for the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study is now complete and, in early 2019, scientists will have access to baseline data from all ABCD Study participants.

There are 11,874 youth, ages 9-10, participating in the study, including 2,100 young people who are twins or triplets. All will be followed through young adulthood.

The ABCD Study is a landmark study on brain development and child health that will increase understanding of environmental, social, genetic, and other biological factors that affect brain and cognitive development and can enhance or disrupt a young person’s life trajectory. Coordinated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the study is supported by eight other NIH institutes and offices, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal partners.

The study—being conducted at 21 research sites around the country—will use advanced neuroimaging to observe brain development in children throughout adolescence, while tracking social, behavioral, physical and environmental factors that may affect brain development and other health outcomes.

Anonymized study data are being made available to the broad research community on a regular basis. This will allow scientists to analyze data and ask novel questions that were not even anticipated in the original study planning. Offering these data while the study is in progress means that both ABCD investigators and non-ABCD researchers will have access to the datasets to pursue their own research interests.

Child preparing for MRI scan.
An ABCD participant in South Carolina preparing for his MRI scan.Medical University of South Carolina

There are many health topics that are of interest to researchers, policy makers, educators, parents, and the participants themselves, which scientists can now study using the baseline assessment data. These data can then be tracked over time and used to make predictions as youth develop and are shaped by their life experiences. Scientists can look at brain characteristics associated with impulsive action orearly psychopathology(link is external); the impact of health behaviors (e.g., sleep, physical activity) on cognitive and brain development; or traits associated with media use, including screen time exposure. For example, a recentstudy(link is external)by ABCD investigators showed associations between differing amounts and kinds of screen time (e.g., video games vs. social media) and different structural brain characteristics, psychological traits, and cognitive function. Scientists will be able to follow participants over time to understand how media use will influence a person’s development, underscoring the unique opportunity provided by the ABCD study.

Similarly, researchers can look at risk and resilience factors for mental illness and substance use, including genetics, family history, traits such as impulsivity, and exposure to positive and negative environmental events. With longitudinal data, the developmental trajectories of the participants can be tracked to better understand these complex relationships, and eventually to improve prevention or mitigate risks for adverse outcomes.

Additional data from the first 4,500 children enrolled in the study will be released this month, and data from the full participant cohort (11,874) will be available in early 2019. In addition, scientists will be able access a new tool through theNIMH Data Archive— the Data Exploration and Analysis Portal (DEAP). DEAP will facilitate analysis of the ABCD data, allowing users to analyze the data online without downloading it, while providing appropriate statistical models and tools that take advantage of the ABCD Study design. DEAP will enhance the ability of researchers to address myriad questions related to adolescent development.

Researchers interested in accessing these data can visit theNIMH Data Archive. As findings are published in various journals by both ABCD investigators and other scientists, study coordinators will continue to post information on thestudy website(link is external)at is external).

The ABCD study is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the National Cancer Institute, theEunice Kennedy ShriverNational Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the NIH Office ofBehavioral and Social Sciences Research, the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health, and the Division of Adolescent and School Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with additional partnerships with the National Institute of Justice, the CDC Division of Violence Prevention, the National Science Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. For information on all study sites, go to is external).

Learn more about NIDA by following #ThisIsNIH on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram when we take over NIH’s social media platforms from December 10-15. On Thursday, December 13, at 11am ET, join us on theNIH Facebook page(link is external)for a live panel and Q&A with NIDA’s Director Dr. Nora Volkow about vaping.

For more information, contact the NIDA press office sends e-mail)or 301-443-6245. Follow NIDA onTwitter(link is external)andFacebook(link is external).

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...