The brain develops in spurts throughout childhood and adolescence, but not much is understood about the process.
To disentangle this complicated puzzle surrounding one of the body’s most mysterious organs, FIU cognitive neuroscientist Angela Laird is collaborating with researchers from 21 universities on the largest long-term study of brain development and child health conducted in the U.S. The NIH-funded Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study follows 12,000 children for 10 years, starting from the time they’re 9 or 10.
In addition to interviews and behavioral testing, study participants get MRI scans to document and measure changes in brain structure and function. Data, which is openly available for future studies, will help form a better understanding of how environmental, social, genetic and other factors affect brain development. To date, researchers are already tracking issues around substance use, mental health development, sleep, nutrition, social media’s influence on the brain and more — paving the way for better treatments and interventions.
A leader in the field, Laird has also been recognized as a Highly Cited Researcher by Clarivate. She’s produced multiple highly cited papers that rank in the top 1 percent by citations in the field of Neuroscience and Behavior. She is co-principal investigator of the ABCD study along with Raul Gonzalez, a faculty member of the Department of Psychology.
Director of the Center for Imaging Science,
College of Arts, Sciences & Education
"FIU has the highest proportion of Hispanic/ Latino participants in the study. This is important because most neuroimaging studies don’t include diverse participants. That leaves a major gap in our understanding of brain development.”