UCLA, CHLA study looks at how kids grow up to be successful

Denise Dador Image
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
UCLA study looks at how kids grow up to be successful
A study by UCLA and Children's Hospital Los Angeles is looking at all the factors that lead to kids growing up with healthy brain development.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Parents would all love to know the magic formula for helping kids become successful adults.

Is it music, sports, a style of parenting?

A new study is hoping to gather all that information and much more.

At age 9, Mateo Rissman is a geography whiz, a musician and he's learning two other languages.

How has all this affected his brain? Did it get bigger? Are there more neural connections? And what inhibited this growth?

"There are many things that children are being exposed to for the first time: social pressure, peer pressure, the stress of school work, ultimately - drugs, alcohol, cigarettes," said Susan Bookheimer, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

UCLA and CHLA researchers are enrolling local children in a unprecedented National Institutes of Health study to track the brains of 10,000 nine to 10 year olds over the next decade.

"This study can really help us understand better what kinds of things we can do in order to promote healthy brain and cognitive development," said Elizabeth Sowell, professor of pediatrics at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

The goal of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development: to find out how various factors affect the developing brain neurologically, cognitively and emotionally.

"We're really trying to get a picture of what's going on in there," said Sowell.

One of the newest areas scientists wanted to look at is how social media affects the adolescent brain.

"We need to know are social experiences that are governed almost entirely through social media going to be harmful to the social development of our children," said Bookheimer.

The hope? That the data will also help guide and shape public policy.

While Mateo's participation will help families in the future, according to his dad, Mateo is also getting something out of it.

"I thought the study was going to be a fun opportunity for him to do some of these cognitive tests and get to see what an MRI scanner is like," said Jesse Rissman.

UCLA and CHLA researchers are enrolling 1,000 local kids over the next two years. Participants will undergo testing and MRI scans once a year and get paid $150 each time they come in.

To sign up parents can visit abcdstudy.org/sites/ucla.html and abcdstudy.org/sites/chla.html at CHLA.