NIH – Accelerating the Pace of Child Health Research Using Existing Data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study (R01, R21-Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

The following description was taken from the R01 version of this FOA:

The ABCD Study, launched in 2015, is the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States, collecting data from nearly 12,000 youth and their parents/caregivers beginning at ages 9 and 10.

Research projects of this magnitude often generate data with utility beyond the specific objectives for which they were originally designed. Secondary analyses of existing data sets are a cost-effective means to test new hypotheses and develop novel experimental designs. This data set has potential advantages in terms of size and geographic diversity; demographic information; a wide range of health and mental health variables; and suitability for linkage with other data sets.

The ABCD Study protocol consists of assessments of physical and mental health, cognition, substance use, culture and environment, bioassays for hormones, genetics, environmental exposures, and substance use analysis; as well as multimodal brain imaging to track changes in brain structure (brain morphology and structural connectivity) and function (at rest and during cognitive tasks) as participants transition from childhood through adolescence into adulthood. These assessments will be done annually (non-imaging) or biannually (imaging) and are expected to continue for at least 10 years. For more information on the ABCD protocol, please visit

The ABCD Study has partnered with the NIMH Data Archive (NDA) to release fast-track data to the scientific community containing unprocessed neuroimaging data (high-resolution structural data (3D T1 – and T2 – weighted scans, advanced diffusion MRI, resting state fMRI, and Task fMRI (Monetary Incentive Delay, Stop-Signal, and Emotional N-Back), along with raw E-Prime task files for each fMRI run), as well as basic participant demographics (age, sex) from ABCD Study participants to date.

Curated data are released annually, beginning in 2018. This interim release contains baseline data from the first ~4500 participants, including:

  • Minimally processed brain image volumes
  • Tabulated MRI data including
    • high resolution structural MRI (3D T1 – and T2 – weighted),
    • diffusion MRI,
    • resting state fMRI, and
    • task fMRI (Monetary Incentive Delay, Stop-Signal, and Emotional N-Back)
  • Non-imaging assessment data on
    • physical & mental health,
    • substance use,
    • culture & environment,
    • cognitive and emotional function,
    • biospecimen analyses
  • Residential history derived data from
    • EPA Smart Location Database,
    • FBI Uniform Crime Report,
    • American Community Survey Area Deprivation Index,
    • Elevation from Google Maps, and
    • NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center population density and satellite-based pollution measures

A current list of publicly available data is maintained on the ABCD Study website.

Research Scope of FOA

This FOA will support activities proposing to conduct analyses of existing ABCD Study data to accelerate the pace of research on child health and development, including: cross-sectional and/or longitudinal analyses; development of new or advanced statistical methods; and/or integration of multiple data sets with common data elements. Existing data provide unique opportunities to answer novel research questions in a cost-effective way. We also strongly encourage inclusion of statisticians, computational neuroscientists, and interdisciplinary teams to address novel research questions using these data.

Specific areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Analyses of data that have been harmonized and merged across data sets, such as those using PhenX ( and NIH Toolbox measures (; or imaging datasets, such as the Human Connectome Project.
  • Development of innovative computational, statistical, and analytical methods that integrate complex multi-modal datasets (e.g., genetics, imaging, cognition).
  • Analyses of individual developmental trajectories using brain, cognitive, emotional, academic, and/or other data, including examination of associations among measures of neurocognition, language use, brain structure and function.
  • Identification of reliable biobehavioral signatures, biomarkers, and/or cultural and familial factors (e.g., ethnic identity, bilingualism) that predict risk or resilience to substance use, mental illness, and other health outcomes.
  • Analyses of disparities based on race, ethnicity, SES, and neighborhood characteristics that affect development and could lead to interventions to ameliorate the impact.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to consider the risk for spurious findings when conducting multiple analyses and/or using large data sets and are encouraged to address this potential concern in the application. Applicants are also strongly encouraged to calculate and report effect size (e.g., percentage of variance explained), in addition to statistical significance, whenever possible.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to pre-register hypotheses, aim(s), design and plans for statistical analyses to journals for peer review prior to beginning their project.

Applicants should note that analyses using only existing de-identified ABCD Study data are not considered human subjects research by NIH criteria. However, all studies should include plans to address inclusion of individuals’ data on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex in terms of their scientific goals and research strategy.

Institute Interests:

Applicants are encouraged to discuss applications with the I/C contact listed in Section VII. Agency Contacts.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).  The mission of NIDA is to advance science on the causes and consequences of drug use and addiction and to apply that knowledge to improve individual and public health. In the context of this FOA, NIDA is particularly interested in the utilization of ABCD data to inform the development of more powerful computational and analytical methods that can capture the interactions among biological, environmental, behavioral, cultural and familial factors and how they predict risk or resilience to substance use.

National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD).  The mission of NIMHD is to lead scientific research to improve minority health and reduce health disparities. Health disparity populations of interest to NIMHD include African-Americans/Blacks, Hispanic/Latinos, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific islanders, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, underserved rural populations, and sexual and gender minority populations. In the context of this FOA, NIMHD is particularly interested in the role of ethnic identity and the experiences of minority youth with discrimination in substance use trajectories.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).  The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure. In the context of this FOA, NIMH is particularly interested in applications that use ABCD Study data to characterize typical and atypical neurobehavioral trajectories of affective, cognitive and social function across development, and identify early risk and protective factors for the onset of mental illness.

National Cancer Institute (NCI).  The mission of the NCI is to conduct and support research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to the cause, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer, rehabilitation from cancer, and the continuing care of cancer patients and their families. In the context of this FOA, NCI is particularly interested in the utilization of ABCD data to examine tobacco use trajectories (including initiation, maintenance, and cessation) of tobacco products (e.g., cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco products) and their effects on the brain and development.

NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH).  The ORWH is part of the Office of the Director of NIH and works in partnership with the NIH Institutes and Centers to ensure that women’s health research is part of the scientific framework at the NIH, and throughout the scientific community. In the context of this FOA, ORWH is interested in applications that include plans to address sex as a biological variable (SABV) including plans to disaggregate the ABCD data by sex/gender with a focus on examining sex and gender influences in adolescent brain development.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).  The mission of NICHD is to support biomedical, biobehavioral and social science studies on the processes of human development. For this FOA, NICHD is particularly interested in applications that use the ABCD Study data to characterize typical neurobehavioral trajectories of affective, cognitive and social function across development and how environmental experiences can affect those trajectories. In addition, the NICHD wishes to highlight for this FOA examinations of neurocognition and language use among individuals who are bilingual, and studies of neurobehavioral and social development of individuals with learning disabilities.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).  The mission of NCCIH is to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and integrative health interventions and their roles in improving health and health care.  In the context of this FOA, NCCIH is particularly interested in encouraging applications that use ABCD Study data to understand relationships among childhood sleep disturbances, pain conditions, musical training, affective well-being, use of complementary and integrative health strategies, and neural circuitry.

Deadlines:  standard dates and standard AIDS dates apply