Frequently Asked Questions

What does MRI stand for and how does it work?

MRI is short for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. MRI is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnets to capture a 3D image of the brain. Sometimes MRI scans may be administered with contrast agents or dyes to enhance the visibility of internal tissues. No contrasts are used in the ABCD Study.

Some of the scans will collect “anatomical pictures” of your child’s brain, which show us the physical structures. In other scans, your child will be asked to play different types of games so that we can see your child’s brain working. This type of scan is a functional MRI (fMRI) that allows researchers to visualize which parts of the brain are active and connected during each task. MRI scans do not use radiation or X-rays and they are safe and painless.

Is the MRI safe?

Yes! MRI is safe and easy. No health risks have been associated with repeated exposure to the magnetic field or radio waves used in MRI. Unlike X-rays or CT scans, MRI uses no radiation.

Elizabeth Sowell, Ph.D., Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Damien Fair, Ph.D., Oregon Health & Science University

Is there anyone who should not have an MRI?

Because the MRI uses a strong magnet, you should not wear any metal (such as piercings, jewelry, or metallic clothing) during the scan. You should not have an MRI if you have certain types of metal in your body. Dental fillings are safe because they are made of a special metal, but metal braces at the initial visit are not.

What is the MRI like?

Stefanie Bodison, OTD, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

The MRI scanner is about the size of a play tunnel. Once your child is inside, the researcher will check that your child feels okay, and then will operate the scans from an adjacent room. During the scans your child will be asked to lie perfectly still so that the machine can collect very clear images of their brain. Participants can watch movies or play computer games while they are in the scanner. The MRI does make a lot of noise, so participants wear earbuds and headphones to block out the sound.

Before the MRI, participants will have an opportunity to see what it will be like to be in an MRI machine.

What is the effect of screen time on my child’s brain health?

Great question! We actually don’t know yet, but we hope that by the end of this study we will have a better understanding of how screen time at an early age impacts the growing adolescent brain.

Will my child’s information be kept confidential?

All of the information we collect is kept confidential. It will be securely stored and separated from personal information.

Stefanie Bodison, OTD, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Will we be compensated for the participation?

Yes, you and your child will be paid for time spent participating in the ABCD Study.

What is the final question you are trying to answer?

What aspects of a child’s life are associated with positive and negative developmental outcomes? Since this study collects a variety of biological, behavioral, environmental, neurocognitive, and neuroimaging data, scientists all across the world will be able to better understand the effects of different factors on brain, behavioral, and cognitive development.

We hope this information will be used to identify ways to improve health and well-being during this critical developmental period.

Can we find out the results of the study?

We have newsletters for our families to stay in touch and provide information about the study in the years to come. Results from the study will emerge as we combine the data across the more than 10,000 children in the study and see how they change over time.

My child is interested in participating in the ABCD Study but hasn’t been contacted. How can we become part of the study?

Recruitment occurred in staggered fashion over the span of 2 years and is now complete.

Unfortunately, we cannot include families who do not live near an ABCD Study site. However, the results of our research will be shared broadly so you will have opportunities to learn from the study’s findings even if you are not a study participant.

What happens if we move?

We have 21 sites across the nation, and we will try to connect you with one of the study sites nearest to your new home so that you can continue to participate.