OHSU scientists awarded major NIH grant to study substance abuse and adolescent brain development

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A team of three OHSU researchers were selected by the National Institutes of Health today to receive a major grant for a long-term study tracking the effects of adolescent substance abuse on the developing brain. Damien Fair, P.A.-C., Ph.D., Bonnie Nagel, Ph.D., and Sarah Feldstein Ewing, Ph.D., were awarded one of 13 grants looking at cognitive and social development in approximately 10,000 children across the U.S. The total amount from NIH for this award is $30 million annually.

Update June 11, 2018: Special issue of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience features national ABCD study, OHSU researchers

The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study will follow approximately 10,000 9-to-10 year olds 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.

Researchers have long hypothesized that there is a strong link between adolescent alcohol abuse and long-term harmful effects on brain development. The ABCD Study will seek to address this link, helping inform prevention and treatment research priorities, public health strategies, and policy decisions, including:

  • What is the impact of occasional versus regular use of marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, and other substances, alone or in combination, on the structure and function of the developing brain?
  • How does the use of specific substances impact the risk for using other substances?
  • What are the brain pathways that link adolescent substance use and risk for mental illnesses?
  • What impact does substance use have on physical health, psychological development, information processing, learning and memory, academic achievement, social development, and other behaviors?
  • What factors (such as prenatal exposure, genetics, head trauma, and demographics) influence the development of substance use and its consequences?

The 13 grants issued today will fund a Coordinating Center, a Data Analysis and Informatics Center, and 11 research project sites. OHSU will serve as one of the 11 research project sites, where all three scientists will serve as principal investigators. In addition, Fair will serve as a co-investigator for the Data Analysis Center.

CRAN is comprised of NIDA, NIAAA and the National Cancer Institute. Other NIH collaborators in this project are the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.

NIDA has a special section on its website related to the current state of the science on substances and brain health.