Health Care

FIU awarded $12.7M to study substance abuse impact on adolescent brains

As part of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, researchers will using neuro-imaging to track the impact of drug use on adolescent brain development. Pictured here is a brain MRI slide of a girl. Actual patient and clinic names have been omitted.
As part of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, researchers will using neuro-imaging to track the impact of drug use on adolescent brain development. Pictured here is a brain MRI slide of a girl. Actual patient and clinic names have been omitted. Florida International University

A team of Florida International University clinicians and researchers will study the impact of substance abuse on adolescent brain development as part of a multi-year national study involving 13 research institutions and funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH awarded FIU $12.7 million, the university’s largest single award ever from the government medical research agency, as part of a national initiative to follow 10,000 children, starting at age 9 or 10, through adolescence.

Scientists will track the children’s exposure to substances such as nicotine, alcohol and marijuana, and research the effects on their academic achievement, cognitive skills, mental health and brain structure and function.

The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study aims to inform prevention and treatment research, public health strategies and policy decisions.

In the first five years of the study, a 14-member team of FIU researchers will recruit hundreds of children from Miami-Dade County and surrounding areas. Researchers will collect detailed data on substance abuse, psychosocial, neuropsychological and neuroimaging data to help determine factors that lead to substance use and addiction.

The researchers will also examine the presence of disruptive behavior disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder symptoms and others.

Led by Raul Gonzalez, associate professor of psychology, psychiatry, and immunology and a faculty member at the FIU Center for Children and Families, the researchers hope to uncover factors that impact brain development during adolescence — considered the developmental stage of highest risk for substance use and other mental health disorders.

Daniel Chang: 305-376-2012, @dchangmiami

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