ABCD Study MRIs reveal more incidental findings in children

Mar. 24, 2021

New findings from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD) Study could change our understanding of the prevalence of neurological problems in children and how neuroimaging is used to screen for these problems. Scan results revealed one in 25 children needed further medical evaluation.

“These were all healthy kids. Without these scans some would have had a major medical event,” John Foxe, Ph.D., director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience, and principal investigator of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development or ABCD Study at the University of Rochester and a co-author of the study, which appears in the journal JAMA Neurology.

Doctor holding brain scans

As part of the ABCD Study, the nine and ten-year-old participants had an MRI. Of the nearly 12,000 scanned, around 2,500 revealed results that needed follow-up – this gives researchers the largest data set of incidental findings on this population to date.

“Neuro-typical kids may have an actual problem, that's the real eye opener. The numbers that this study revealed was more than we expected,” said Foxe. “These finding could be the beginning of what is needed to develop protocols around universal screening of youth.”

URMC is one of 21-sites across the country collecting data for the ABCD Study, the largest brain development and child health study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Ed Freedman, Ph.D., is the principal investigator of the ABCD study in Rochester and a co-author of the study.

The ABCD Study ultimately aims to understand how childhood experiences such as social media, video games, smoking, sleep and other factors impact brain development, academic achievement, and social behavior. The NIH hopes the findings will provide families, educators, healthcare professionals, and decision-makers tangible information to improve care and better understand the events that impact childhood development from adolescence through young adulthood.

Leo P. Sugrue, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco is the senior author on this study.