The IMAGEN Study is also expanding its scope across other research institutes in Europe and the world! IMAGEN is already internationally regarded as a leading study in the use of brain imaging and genetics to better understand the interplay of biology and environment on adolescent behaviour and mental illness. This methodology, which is the core of IMAGEN is now been pursued in many international studies:

The IMAGEN Study is part of a project based in India, cVEDA (The Consortium on Vulnerability to Externalizing Disorders and Addictions), which compares how environmental genetic risk factors in industrialised countries shape brain function and behaviour and increase risk for substance misuse and other disorders. cVEDA is recruiting approximately 10,000 families across four different centres in India. This project also involves large adolescent research groups, ALSPAC (UK) and SCAMP (UK). Combined with the data already provided by IMAGEN participants, this will give us an even greater understanding into the role that environmental and genetic factors have on development, particularly with those that face early deprivation through poverty and social factors.

IMAGEN is in collaboration with the ENIGMA Network based in the USA. The ENIGMA consortium aims to pull together worldwide data sets that use brain imaging techniques to examine brain activity in those with mental disorders alongside groups of healthy individuals, of which IMAGEN is an important contributor. Because genetic influences on our behaviour and brain activity can often be quite hard to detect, much larger datasets are often needed before genetic effects are noticed. The collaboration between IMAGEN and ENIGMA allows us to combine genetic and neuroimaging information from adolescents and young adults, in order to give researchers a better chance of finding significant biological markers of mental illness. This collaboration is crucial in enabling us to look at the differences in brain structure and brain activity between healthy IMAGEN participants and individuals who suffer from mental disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, ADHD and addiction.

The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study is a large American research study comparable in its approach to IMAGEN; it will assess the short- and long-term impact of substance use on brain development, but on a larger scale. The project has recruited 10,000 youths before they begin using alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and other drugs, and will follow them over 10 years into early adulthood. ABCD Study investigators will use brain imaging as well as psychological and behavioural research tools to evaluate brain structure and activity. The study will track substance use, academic achievement, IQ, cognitive skills and mental health over time.

The IMAGEN Study has truly become a global initiative and as a participant you are part of exciting new changes in how we understand and view the mind and behaviour. So what’s next?