University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Press Release

UWM joins the largest long-term study of child brain development in the U.S.

University researchers will work with elementary schools during the next two years to recruit families for the study.

By - Dec 20th, 2016 09:34 am
UWM Union. Photo by Dave Reid.

UWM Union. Photo by Dave Reid.

MILWAUKEE_The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is joining the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States.

The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study by the National Institutes of Health will follow the biological and behavioral development of more than 10,000 children beginning at ages 9 or 10, through adolescence and into early adulthood.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for Wisconsin to be involved in a study of this scale,” said Krista Lisdahl, a UWM associate professor of psychology who is heading up the UWM site, one of 21 across the nation. “The results will give vital insight into how family dynamics, environment, lifestyle and health behaviors affect our children’s development for generations to come. This information can help us optimize child and adolescent cognitive and social development.”

Adolescence is a time of extraordinary physical, emotional and intellectual growth as well as a changing social environment full of new challenges and opportunities that help shape a young person’s adult identity, health and well-being. There is much to learn about how varied adolescent experiences (e.g., participation in extracurricular activities, playing video games, sleep habits, head injuries from sports, experimentation with alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or other substances) affect development and vice versa.

During the course of the next decade, scientists will use advanced brain imaging, interviews and behavioral testing to determine how childhood experiences interact with each other and with a child’s changing biology to affect brain development and – ultimately – social, behavioral, academic, health and other outcomes.

Understanding these relationships may help reveal the biological and environmental building blocks that best contribute to successful and resilient young adults. This enhanced knowledge also may lead to ways to predict potential developmental problems so that they can be prevented or reversed.

Families that volunteer will be part of groundbreaking research that promises to inform future educational strategies, child development innovations, research priorities, more effective public health interventions and science-based policy decisions.

Lisdahl specializes in studying the impact of health behaviors, such as physical activity and substance use, on brain health during adolescence and young adulthood using methods that include brain scanning with magnetic resonance imaging. In 2012, she was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Barack Obama and the NIH.

University researchers will work with elementary schools during the next two years to recruit families for the study.

UWM scientists will be working with schools in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties to recruit starting  in January.

Schools will be approached on a rolling schedule throughout the next 20 months, and ABCD Study recruitment fliers will be sent home or through email. Also, some families will be recruited through mailings to their home. Families will participate at UWM once a year and will be paid for their time. For more information about UWM’s involvement, see For a map of all the participating sites in the U.S. see

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