College of Liberal Arts
The primary aims of this ongoing longitudinal study are to conduct comprehensive investigations of brain development during adolescence and early adulthood and to determine how brain development is altered when individuals begin to use alcohol (as well as other drugs, such as cannabis) during this period. In a recently completed five-timepoint study, the researchers employed an extensive two-day data collection protocol at each study time point, consisting of behavioral assessments, brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI; high resolution anatomical scans, several types of diffusion scans, spectroscopy, resting functional scans), and electroencephalography (EEG). Also included was a one-time collection of genetic data (single-nucleotide polymorphisms). Data processing and analysis are ongoing and include data from all 5 timepoints. In our analyses within and across these types of data, the researchers investigate the refinement of brain network connectivity during normal adolescent development and identify alterations due to alcohol and drug use. MSI resources are heavily used to achieve this “connectivity” aspect of this brain-behavior research, which relates directly to the goals of the Human Connectome Project.
Based on initial findings from this study, in 2019 the researchers began data collection on a targeted longitudinal study of 18-19 year old alcohol and/or cannabis users, employing an extensive MRI assessment that uses updated scanning techniques developed in the Human Connectome Project. These data will be processed and analyzed using MSI resources throughout 2023.
Finally, the Principal Investigator is a PI on the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, the largest long-term (longitudinal) study of brain development and child health in the United States. This NIH-funded project spans 21 research sites across the country, and has enrolled over 12,000 children ages 9-10 years who will be assessed longitudinally through adolescence into young adulthood. Laboratory assessments include extensive behavioral testing as well as a lengthy MRI scanning session. Each data release from an assessment wave contains more than 30 TB of MRI data. Processing and analysis of MRI data from this study presents challenges never encountered previously, due to both the scale of the research and the complexity of the cutting-edge MRI scans that are employed. Currently the study is conducting its second full assessment wave. The researchers expect to conduct more exploratory analyses (e.g., experimenting with revised processing pipelines for MRI data using smaller selected datasets, etc.).
Research by this group was featured on the MSI website in December 2021: Neuroimaging and Genetic Data Resources.