Early findings for first year of youth brain study


A first-of-its-kind youth mental health study being conducted on the Sunshine Coast has reached its one-year mark with significant initial findings.

More than 50 young people have enrolled in the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Longitudinal Adolescent Brain Study (LABS) conducted at the Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience – Thompson Institute.

Professor of Youth Mental Health and Neurobiology Daniel Hermens said the ambitious study was “building world-leading understanding of adolescent brain development, vital for early detection that a young person’s mental health is at risk”.

“Thanks to the commitment of our participants and their parents, we’ve completed more than 120 scans of young people’s brains, tracking their development every four months from the age of 12,” he said.

The study is the first of its kind, because researchers are scanning young people’s brains three times a year during the rapidly-changing period of adolescence, as well as discussing what is happening in their lives, including stresses and influences.

Professor Hermens said the first year had unveiled some interesting discoveries.

“Early findings have revealed significant links between sleep quality and mental wellbeing in 12-year-olds,” he said.

“Previously, few studies into the association between sleep quality and mental health have focused on early adolescence, yet this is a developmental period in which many mental illnesses first emerge.

“Our research in this area is therefore vital and indicates that sleep quality may influence or act as an indicator of mental health.”

Professor Hermens said the study had also revealed a link between distress and the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is important for learning and storing memories. 

“We know from studies in adults that mental illnesses such as depression have been linked to smaller hippocampus sizes,” he said.

“Although it is not yet clear how this happens, it is thought that the hippocampus is vulnerable to stress. 

“The good news is that the hippocampus can recover very well from things like stress and actually increase in size, due to synaptic plasticity which is when brain cells grow and make new connections with each other.

“This means that early intervention could aid a swift recovery in brain function and mental health.”

Professor Hermens said the Thompson Institute had also started investigating how brain function during rest can be an indicator of mental health.

12-year-old participant Oliver Woods said he joined the study because it sounded like “an important project to be a part of”.

“I am interested in knowing more about what studying the brain can do to improve everyone’s health as they grow up,” he said. 

The LABS study aims to reach 500 participants over the next five years and is currently seeking 12-year-olds in high school to register.

Data from the study is also being de-identified and made available to schools to conduct their own scientific investigations into mental health data, as part of a Future Researchers program.

Children Community Health & Wellness Science & Research University & TAFE

University Of The Sunshine Coast : View Full Profile
90 Sippy Downs Drive, Sippy Downs
07 5430 1234
University Of The Sunshine Coast
Showing 10+ recent articles for this business
USC to host Lightning’s Community Thank You event 15 September 2019 | USC is hosting the event to give fans the chance to meet players and coaching staff, collect signatures, and to say farewell to the club’s foundation coach Noeline Taurua. More information...
A meeting of cultures for print symposium 11 September 2019 | USC’s Art Gallery will soon host a two-day public forum featuring a Japanese print art expert to coincide with the opening of a stunning exhibition of Japanese and Australian print art at Caloundra Regional... More information...
USC Journalism graduate wins statewide award 10 September 2019 | Drew Beveridge is no doubt flying high after she was named Queensland’s most outstanding final-year journalism student. More information...
USC backs Lightning with ‘wear yellow to work’ day 10 September 2019 | USC staff will be sporting the colour yellow tomorrow (Wednesday 11 September) as a bright show of support for Sunshine Coast Lightning ahead of the Suncorp Super Netball grand final on Sunday 15 September. More information...
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day 10 September 2019 | We have received overwhelming response from the community in support of our World Suicide Prevention Day mission: to train 100 people as suicide-alert community gatekeepers. We see gatekeepers as people whose... More information...
Study finds value for money trumps online ratings 09 September 2019 | Online reviews have revolutionised the way travellers select hotels, but a USC researcher has found when it comes to swaying consumers, ratings cannot beat old fashioned price and location.  More information...
Peony scientist breaks new ground for cut flowers 09 September 2019 | One of the world’s most popular flowers – the peony – can now be grown in hot climates, following a discovery that could disrupt the multi-billion dollar global cut flower industry. More information...
Journalism students in running for state award 06 September 2019 | Two USC journalism students have been named as finalists in the Queensland Clarion Awards being held in Brisbane tomorrow night (Saturday 7 September). More information...
USC nappy project changing lives in Vanuatu 05 September 2019 | A USC Occupational Therapy student from Burpengary is determined to make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged mothers and babies in Vanuatu – one reusable nappy at a time.  More information...
Year 11 student to discuss benefits of Headstart 05 September 2019 | Studying a human anatomy subject at university while in Year 11 is part of Chancellor State College student Petra Nunn’s plan to eventually become a doctor. More information...

comments powered by Disqus

All articles submitted by third parties or written by My Sunshine Coast come under our Disclaimer / Terms of Service