ABCD scientists study many factors that shape development

Mary Heitzeg, Ph.D., University of Michigan

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Significance of the ABCD Study

Parents, educators, and researchers share a common goal—helping our children become healthy and well-adjusted adults. Science-based information can help us achieve that goal. The ABCD Study® will look at many childhood experiences that affect brain, social, emotional, and cognitive development, including those that directly affect classroom behavior and academic success.

Some of the areas to be studied include sleep, attention, substance use, physical activity, and sports injuries. Understanding the relationships among these experiences and their effects on the growing brain will provide answers that can inform educational practices and policy (as shown in the table below) and, ultimately, improve the health and success of our youth.

Questions the ABCD study could answer: Leading to new policies/interventions:
What are some factors that contribute to achievement gaps? Curricula and other school program changes
How prevalent are traumatic brain injuries among student athletes and do they influence educational achievement? Precautions, assessments, and education of student athletes
Do certain extracurricular activities (e.g., athletics, music) lead to better health and educational outcomes? After-school programming
Does use of substances such as alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana lead to use of other substances? Does substance use affect learning? Substance use prevention and education interventions

The ABCD Study will complement current education research

Much of the current education research is focused on individual stages of development. The ABCD Study will complement this research by answering fundamental questions of brain and cognitive development by following students throughout adolescence.

“What is really extraordinary and important about the ABCD Study is that it is going to connect students at all of these various stages – late childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood – and therefore will provide us with a continuous or fluid perspective on young people as they mature.”

– Dr. Thomas Brock,
Former Commissioner,
National Center for Education Research,
Department of Education