Monday, November 24, 2014

NIH Forum Focuses on Huge Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Substance Use

Last week, the leaders of four National Institutes of Health (NIH) institutes (National Cancer Institute, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and National Institute on Drug Abuse) hosted a special open forum in Washington, D.C., to discuss their upcoming Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study.

The ABCD will follow 10,000 children for a decade, from ages 10 to 20, to see how nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs affect the trajectory of a developing brain. The study will incorporate advanced neuroimaging data along with other evaluations of mental, physical, and social health. NIH held this special event, which coincided with Neuroscience 2014 (the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience) to welcome additional suggestions or concerns on how to optimally configure such a large and complex adolescent cohort study.

The forum touched on several key topics, with issues of sample composition, data sharing, and the reliability of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) leading to some particularly lively discussions. Harvard Medical School neurology professor Michael Charness, M.D., who moderated the event, noted that the NIH would also accept additional comments related to ABCD for a while longer before the study design is finalized. NIH anticipates the official funding announcement will be released in early 2015.

Anyone wanting additional information about ABCD or to make suggestions for the study can contact Susan Weiss, Ph.D., NIDA associate director for scientific affairs at (301) 443-6487 or at, or Peggy Murray, Ph.D., director of the International Research Program at NIAAA at (301) 443-2594 or at

To read more about the need to conduct research into the effects of substance abuse in youth, see the Psychiatric News column, “Marijuana Legalization and Young Brains: Time for Serious Study.”



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