Participants were initially recruited when researchers visited nearly a hundred schools across all sites to explain to students and their teachers the nature and purpose of the study. The young people interested in taking part were then invited to the Institutes with their parents, where both adolescents and parents spent a day completing assessments. This involved the child completing a brain scan (MRI) that incorporated tasks measuring brain activity during emotional processing, behaviour inhibition and reward sensitivity tasks. Additionally, the child undertook numerous written and computer-based assessments examining a wide variety of topics such as intelligence, emotional response, substance use, and personality. The participants were also invited to provide blood samples. Biological parents completed a number of personal assessments such as family history and the period when they or their spouse were pregnant with the child.
Follow Up 1
At age 15-16 participants and their parents were contacted for the first follow up. Both participants and their parents were asked to repeat a number of online questionnaires from home. These questionnaires focused on topics such as personality, environmental influences and alcohol and drug use. This allowed researchers to compare responses between the Baseline assessment and Follow up 1 to give insight into changes in behaviour over time.
Follow Up 2
Participants were contacted once again at 18-20 years of age and invited to return to the institute for another assessment. At this phase of the study participants were asked to repeat some of the tasks they had completed during the Baseline visit. The brain scan included tasks measuring brain activity during emotional processing, behaviour inhibition and reward sensitivity tasks. The assessment also involved several computer-based cognition tasks, providing a small blood sample, and completing an in-depth interview on alcohol and substance use. With this information the IMAGEN researchers can examine changes in brain activity, gene expression and other factors in the years since the Baseline assessment.
Additionally, both participants and their parents were invited to complete a set of online questionnaires from their home, similar to Follow Up 1. This was designed to look at changes in the responses of participants and their parents over time and focused on personality, physical development, and mood, among other factors. Both biological parents were also asked to provide saliva samples. This allows researchers to look at specific genes and the role they may have in the participant’s development and behaviour.
Follow Up 3
Follow up 3 is due to commence at a number of the European sites in 2016. Only the young adults will be assessed during this phase, which will involve many of the measures used at Baseline and at Follow Up 2 including the brain scan and fMRI tasks, blood samples, assessments of substance use, and cognitive and neuropsychological performance.
Encouraging participants to sign up
It is the aim of this project to learn about biological and environmental factors that might have an influence on mental health in teenagers. This knowledge will then help to develop novel prevention strategies and therapies in the future.
If you want to be part of this European research project, please click here to contact your local research team to receive further information!