Grant Awards Mark the Launch of Landmark Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study


By Nora Volkow (Director,

The teen years are the period of highest risk for substance use and for the development of other behavioral disorders, and they are also a period when the brain is changing dramatically. A study of this scope will yield an unprecedented amount of detailed information about how the brain develops and how its development is affected by a multitude of factors alone and in combination with each other. It will allow us to look not only at exposure to substances including nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana and other drugs but also at mental illnesses, the effects of brain traumas from injuries, and influences of other environmental factors like family and peer influences, and socioeconomic status. The inclusion of genetic data will give us crucial information about genes’ influence on adolescent development and on vulnerability to mental illness and the effects of substance use.

The study will do much to fill the large existing gaps in our knowledge about the brain-developmental effects of many substances. Current high levels of underage binge drinking and increased intensity of binge drinking in adolescents are causes of significant concern, for example, and this study will clarify how various levels of alcohol exposure, as well as alcohol use in combination with other substances, affect the developing brain. Given the changing laws around marijuana in some states that will likely make this drug more accessible to youth, a similarly nuanced picture of marijuana’s effects is also crucial to acquire. Although cigarette use among adolescents has declined, the surge in use of e-cigarettes (which deliver nicotine and other chemicals to the user) and other tobacco products like little cigars, makes it very important to learn more about the impact of nicotine and tobacco use on the adolescent brain, including how their use affects the —> Read More