MUSC taking part in first of its kind brain development study

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - MUSC is one of 21 hospitals across the country taking part in a study looking at adolescent brain development.

Dr. Kevin Gray, M.D. and Dr. Lindsay Squeglia, Ph.D. are co-principal investigators for the MUSC site of the ABCD study.

"One of the most exciting things about the ABCD study is nothing has been done on this scale," Gray said. "We're excited to represent Charleston on this huge national initiative which is really unprecedented."

MUSC is searching for 300 children ages nine or ten to participate.

Quinn Mulholland is 10-years-old but no rookie to research studies at MUSC.

"I did a study when I was six," he said.

Quinn will be one of more than 10,000 kids across the country taking part in the 10-year study on how the brain develops.

"If you think about visits to the pediatrician's office where you have scales for normal growth, height and weight... we don't have that for brain development," Gray said. "We now have the technology where we can track normal brain development."

"It's really important that he's involved," added Patrick Mulholland, Quinn's father. "[It's great] that we can contribute to something that's critical for the Lowcountry, critical for the states, and critical for science."

Kids will undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) every other year to look at changes in the brain structure and function, but this isn't your typical MRI.

"While in the scanner, the child is able to engage in a number of tasks and games," Gray said. "Part of it is watching movies, but part of it is answering questions and we can learn about how the brain is processing during these tasks."

"[I've watched] The Incredibles so far," Quinn said. "It's fun, we get to play games too."

The participants will also be asked to take part a variety of behavioral and neurocognitive assessments, as well as annual interviews to get information about physical and behavioral health, school performance, and social activities.

The study will also look at how the use of drugs and other substances may affect the developing brain.

"This may help us in the future to understand if there are predictors that we can use to then identify someone who may be at risk," Gray said.

"We talk about those things now and the importance of staying away drugs and alcohol," Mulholland said.

Quinn said while the study will take a while to complete, he's excited to be a part of it.

"I'm excited because I knew I was going to help studies," he said.

There are also incentives for the children and their families who participate in the study.

Gray said 60 children are currently enrolled in the study, 12 have already completed the first full session since April 22.

The study is funded through a grant with the National Institutes of Health.

For families interested contact or call (843) 792-1999.

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