3-state project to look at developing adolescent brains

Brain Scans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Researchers in New Mexico, Nevada and Louisiana are joining in a $5.9 million project to try to understand how adolescent brains develop.

Scientists at the universities of New Mexico and Nevada will scan the brains of 230 children between the ages of 9 and 15, taking three scans of each over the four-year project, lead researcher Vince Calhoun of the University of New Mexico’s Mind Research Network said in an email Wednesday.

He said Tulane University scientists will analyze DNA from cheek swabs taken with each scan to study methylation, a process that regulates the effects of genes.

Tulane’s strengths in genetics and multi-scale data modeling complement the other institutions’ research on brain imaging techniques, researcher Yu-Ping Wang said in a news release Wednesday.

The brain scans will include magneto-encephalography (mag-NEE-toh en-SEF-uh-LOG-ruh-fee), which detects and creates images from tiny magnetic fields produced by brain activity, and two kinds of MRIs.

All three institutions will analyze and model various aspects of the data, Calhoun said.

That will let researchers evaluate whether different parts of the brain develop at the same time, or whether specific areas become more set earlier than others, Tony Wilson at the University of Nevada Medical Center said in a news release.

Calhoun said the project also will train students and junior faculty members to prepare them for work that covers several different areas of science.

He’s a professor of electrical and computer engineering. Wilson is an associate professor in pharmacology and experimental neuroscience and in neurological sciences. Wang is an associate professor of biomedical engineering. A fourth researcher, Julia Stephen of the Mind Research Network, is an associate professor of translational neuroscience.

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