FIU to examine substance use in youths for national landmark study on brain development

Sep 28, 2015, 12:02 ET from Florida International University

MIAMI, Sept. 28, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Institutes of Health has awarded FIU $12.7 million as part of a multi-year national landmark study on substance use and adolescent brain development. The award, for the first five-years of the research study, is the single largest NIH award ever received by FIU.

Raul Gonzalez, associate professor of psychology, psychiatry, and immunology and faculty member at the FIU Center for Children and Families (CCF) will lead a 14-member research team from FIU's College of Arts & Sciences and Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work that includes child mental health and social work experts, a physicist and psychologists with extensive track records in drug abuse research and cognitive neuroscience.

"Taking responsibility for finding solutions to the problem of adolescent drug use, which robs our youth of their future and costs our country millions in lost productivity, we have assembled a dream team of researchers," said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. "This project will impact our community and the nation for years to come and in the process it will create and support jobs right here in South Florida."

The researchers will also examine participants with disruptive behavior disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder symptoms and others.

"This award will ensure the South Florida community is represented in this landmark national study and allow us to understand how cultural factors influence the development of drug use and addiction," said Gonzalez, who is an FIU alumnus.

In total, 13 grants were awarded to research universities throughout the U.S. to follow 10,000 children, from the age of 9 or 10 through adolescence — the developmental stage of highest risk for substance use and other mental health disorders. Scientists will track exposure to substances, including nicotine, alcohol and marijuana, and academic achievement, cognitive skills, mental health, and brain structure and function using advanced research methods. Dubbed the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, researchers seek to address questions related to substance use and development to inform prevention and treatment research priorities, public health strategies and policy decisions.

In the first five years of the study, FIU researchers will recruit hundreds of youth from Miami-Dade County and surrounding areas. Detailed substance use, psychosocial, neuropsychological and neuroimaging data will be collected to determine factors leading to substance use and addiction, and uncover factors affecting brain development in adolescence.

"With advances in neuroimaging and other investigative tools, we will be able to look in greater detail at the impact of substance use on young people," said Nora D. Volkow, director of NIH's National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Adolescents have access to high potency marijuana and greater varieties of nicotine delivery devices than previous generations. We want to know how that and other trends affect the trajectory of the developing brain."

For a complete list of researchers, click here.

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Ayleen Barbel Fattal


SOURCE Florida International University