Unlock the Mysteries of ABCD


What is the ABCD Study?

The ABCD Study will help us understand how your brain changes over time and how your experiences shape who you will become as an adult. It begins with 1-2 visits to a study site near you where you will be asked to play games and puzzles, answer questions, and have an MRI scan. By doing some of these activities every year until you're an adult, we will be able to see how you change as you grow up.

What is brain and cognitive development?

When you see, hear, touch, smell, or taste something, all that information goes to your brain. Your brain works with this information to tell you about the outside world. When you touch a hot stove, for example, your brain tells your hand to move away from the stove. But the brain is not just the relay between you and the outside world. Feelings actually come from your brain, not your heart. Your brain solves math problems too, and remembers what you ate for breakfast. Your brain also controls your body—learning to catch or hit a ball, for example. As you grow older, you may find it easier to solve difficult math problems, write stories, or pay attention at school. These are all examples of cognitive development. The ABCD Study is going to help us understand this kind of development better.

What happens during the visit?

At your first visit to an ABCD study site, you will be asked to answer questions about:
* what you like to do
* how long and when you sleep
* your friends
* sports you like to play
* how you feel about school
* and other things about you and your life
You will also be asked to:
* Play games and puzzles on an iPad
* Spit into a tube
* Go inside a machine called an MRI that will take pictures of your brain

What does MRI stand for and how does it work?

MRI is short for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. An MRI scanner takes pictures of your brain and creates 3D images. The images show your brain top to bottom and side to side. You will lie down in the MRI scanner, which is about the size of a play tunnel, while it takes pictures. It is safe, easy, and painless. The scanner is pretty noisy, so you will wear earbuds and headphones to block out the sound.

Mary Heitzeg, Ph.D., and
Julianne Speck, B.A.
University of Michigan

What is fMRI? What kind of information does it provide?

fMRIFMRI stands for functional magnetic resonance imaging. FMRI shows what your brain looks like while it's thinking about something in particular, like a funny joke, or a difficult math problem. When a part of the brain is working hard, it needs more oxygen, just as your lungs need more oxygen when they're working hard. FMRI lets scientists see when a part of the brain uses more or less oxygen. When you do a math problem, for example, more oxygen flows to the parts of your brain that are working to solve the problem. If you do this while having an fMRI, scientists can see your brain "in action". So fMRI helps scientists see which parts of the brain are important for thinking about different things. (Photo: John Graner, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center)

Why is this study so long?

movieWe want to find out how your brain develops over time. We want to understand how what happens in your life -- like playing sports or an instrument -- affects you as you become an adult. We also want to understand how your feelings change as you get older.

Will I get paid?

Yes! You will get paid each time you visit your ABCD study site. The exact amount will be determined by your study site.

Do you think this study will make a difference?

Oh yes! Lots of adults want to help kids become happy and healthy adults. This includes doctors, teachers, and parents. But right now, scientists just can't give them the full story on brain development. There have been many different studies with small numbers of kids. The ABCD study is different! It is the biggest study in the country of how our brains, bodies, and behaviors change as we grow up. It will give scientists the information they need to help kids in the future.

Why do you ask me questions that seem like they’re for older kids?

coookiesImagine we handed you a chocolate chip cookie and asked, "Does this taste funny to you?" If you've NEVER tasted a chocolate chip cookie before, you won't know what it's supposed to taste like, so there's no way you can know if this one tastes funny! Knowing what a chocolate chip cookie is supposed to taste like is what scientists call a baseline measurement – something you can compare to. They like to have baseline measurements for all of the things they measure, too. For example, they can't know if your brain has changed once you start puberty if they don't know what your brain looked like before you started puberty. So some questions might not make sense now but they might when you get older. We can see how your answers change as you grow up.

Students’ Space —
What Team ABCD thinks about the Study

Draw a picture or write a message
at your next ABCD visit to be
included in an upcoming Students’ Space!