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Volunteers in West Alabamians sought for national study on child brain development


The University of Alabama is seeking out participants to enroll in a national study that explores factors that impact child development.

The “HEALthy Brain and Child Development” study is the largest-long term study of the brain and child development in the United States. Researchers will work with families from pregnancy through early childhood to better understand how child development is affected in different environmental and social conditions.

“There's a lot of assumptions about things that may impact a child's development and a child's ability to thrive and flourish. So, we're trying to answer that question with data,” said Dr. Lea Yerby, an associate professor at the Department of Community Medicine and Population health at UA.

The study is enrolling individuals in the second trimester of pregnancy. Over the course of three years, researchers will gather pictures of the child’s brain, growth measurements, samples of blood and saliva, medical and family history and information about social, emotional and cognitive development. Researcher say the knowledge gained from this study will have lasting impacts on future generations of children.

“A unique thing about our site is that every participant has their own family navigator who offers support, connects them to resources, follow them throughout the study and also provides education,” said Dr. Yerby. “We're really looking at the best way to support our families throughout this longitudinal study.”

According to UA, participating families will also receive any medically relevant findings from MRI scans and development assessments.

UA is one of 27 different sites across the nation participating in this research. The university is seeking participants from the following counties in West Alabama to enroll:

· Tuscaloosa

· Pickens

· Fayette

· Marengo

· Lamar

· Greene

· Hale

· Sumter

· Perry

Dr. Yerby said she believes that through working with families in West Alabama, more representation can be brought to rural communities in the state.

“West Alabama is one of the most diverse rural communities in the country, [and] we're not represented in national samples as often as we could be,” she explained. “So. we are a unique and special community. It is a privilege to get to have our families represented in this research.”

Enrollment in the “HEALthy Brain and Child Development” study is open, and participants will be compensated. To learn more about the study and eligibility, visit the HBCD website.

Hannah Holcombe is a student intern at the Alabama Public Radio newsroom. She is a Sophomore at the University of Alabama and is studying news media. She has a love for plants, dogs and writing. She hopes to pursue a career as a reporter.
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