Background Information

Why are you doing this study?

We are interested in learning how the brain develops during adolescence, and how that process may be different in youth with or without mental illness. We are also interested in how development may be impacted by traumatic experiences. Our overarching goal is to learn more about how the adolescent brain works so we can eventually contribute to improving diagnostics. With better diagnostics comes more appropriate treatment. 

How long are the visits?

Generally speaking, the visits run about 3 hours on average. The first visit could be a little longer, depending on how much there is to discuss during the clinical interview. The second visit is about 3.5 hours, since we have preparation for the scan, the 2 hour scan, and some samples to collect after the scan. The third visit is about 2.5-3 hours. Please note that these visits could be longer if breaks are needed. 

What do I have to do for this study?

You will come to our lab three times per year. The first appointment involves a clinical interview to make any mental health diagnoses, both past and present. We also use an MRI simulator (more information found here) to make sure you can be comfortable in an MRI environment. If you qualify for the study, you will be given a box with instructions on how to collect a stool sample at home. The stool sample will be shipped to the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery (WID), preferably around the day of the scan. The second visit involves a 2 hour MRI scan and biological samples (urine/saliva/hair). When the child or teen is in the scanner, the parent will be doing tasks on a computer in an office. The third visit involves tasks on the computer for the child, cognition tasks on an iPad for both parent and child, and a teamwork task with an Etch-a-Sketch. We also take time during the third visit to finish any other study activities that didn’t get done previously. We repeat the study activities every year. 

Why are you collecting hair samples? Are you going to pull it out?

Ouch! No, we will not pull the hair out. We use a salon scissors to trim tiny sections of hair to look at extended cortisol release. We use the hair at the back of the head, so it’s not noticeable that it’s missing. The sample video is here

Why am I being asked to collect a stool sample?

We get it. It’s not a fun task to do. However, we hear a lot about how children and teenagers get stomachaches. Affective disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD, can be so stressful that they can alter the gut microbiome. There is a lot we don’t know, and as such, this is an emerging area of science. 

Do I have to pay for shipping with the fecal kit?

No, we have that covered with our UPS account. We will provide you with a shipping label. 

I am really not comfortable with the biological samples, but I want to be in the study. Is that OK?

It’s not ideal, but if you are not on board with any of the biological samples, that’s your choice! The study is voluntary by nature.