U. researchers to study brains of kids 9, 10, hundreds of subjects needed

U. researchers to study brains of kids 9, 10, hundreds of subjects needed (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) University of Utah researchers want to get a close up look at your pre-teens brain.

Most parents would probably like to know what exactly is going on inside there too. Researchers will help parents do that, though their findings could take a few years. U of U scientists have just launched a landmark study to figure out how sleep, cell phones, sports and modern-day life effect brain development.

The National Study of Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development got underway on Sept. 1 with 20 enrolled and hundreds more needed.

Understanding how to foster a healthy brain is the end goal, but to get there scientists will need 500 participants this year and another 500 next year.

Parents with children 9 and 10 may have already received a letter from their child’s school about the study and how you can help families in the future.

Researchers are after Generation Z, a group of pre-teens who've never known a world without smartphones, tablets and video games.

“We want to catch them when they are 9 -10 because there is a huge development progression in your brain, social environment, family -- all your environments,” said Erin McGlade, a Clinical research psychologist at U of U. She said fourth and fifth graders are growing and changing at a rapid pace. Everything they do and experience changes their brain, positively or negatively.

Mclade says they will look at “Nutrition, at health, exercise, concussion.” But that’s not all. They’re “looking at computers, screen time, social media and friendships.” All of it matters and shapes a child’s brain and how they will use it for the rest of their lives.

Study participants will spend time with a clinical psychologist and undergo an MRI now, and as they develop over the next decade. There will be check ins at the ages of 11, 13,15,17,19.

Researchers want to know how long your child sleeps and what sports they play -- including any blows to the head.

“There is a lot of discussion across age groups about concussion.”

How that header at soccer or tackle on the football field effects them in the long run will help guide future rules of the game and decisions parents make for their kids.

“Our end goal is to better understand healthy brain development from 9 to19 and how variables change that or are effected by that.”

Researchers are hoping to get a good mix of kids from different socio-economic backgrounds from the Salt Lake Valley and surrounding area.

“Being able to contribute to better understanding how kid's brains develop and how to encourage healthy brain development is huge.”

Utah is taking part in this national study contributing 1,000 kids with a total 10,000 nationwide.

Study participants will receive compensation for their time. For more information go to abcd-study.org or contact abcd@utah.edu. If you would like to speak to someone in person, call 801-213-2094.

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