Information for participants and parents

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Information for participants and parents

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LABS is a longitudinal study that tracks adolescent brain development over a five-year period. Our goal is to better understand the adolescent brain, and to use this knowledge to improve youth mental health.

To achieve this goal, we need young people in our community to participate in the project.

Participant eligibility

  • 12 years of age and in first year of High School (entry age for LABS)
  • proficient in spoken and written English
  • meet criteria to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • young people suffering from major medical illness, major neurological disorder, intellectual disability or who have sustained head injury (with loss of consciousness greater than 30 minutes) are unable to participate in the project.

Contact LABS is you are unsure if you are eligible to participate.

Project duration

To track adolescent brain development, we need to follow the same participants over five years. This means that to participate, you need to be able to commit to being part of the project on an ongoing basis throughout your high school years.

While this is a significant commitment, your participation will directly contribute to our understanding of the human brain. This is a unique opportunity to be part of a world-first research project and help improve mental health outcomes for young people.

What the project involves

As a participant, you will complete an assessment three times per year (eg every four months). This means a total of 15 assessments over a five-year period.

Each assessment includes a block of neurocognitive activities and brain imaging. These can be completed on the same day or within seven-days of each other. A participant will have breaks between each activity.

Neurocognitive activities

These activities include:

Self-report questionnaire

The self-report questionnaire is done by the participant on a touch-screen tablet. The questionnaire will ask a range of questions about a participant's thoughts, and feelings, and other things like current behaviours and recent experiences.

The self-report questionnaire takes approximately 30 minutes.

Cognitive tasks

The cognitive tasks are computerised and is completed by the participant, with help from the LABS research assistant. The tasks will look at a participant's thinking skills such as concentration, attention and memory.

The cognitive tasks take approximately 30-35 minutes.

Face-to-face interview

The face-to-face interview is conducted by a member of the LABS research team. The interview will ask questions about a participant's mental health, such as whether there have been times in their life when they have experienced changes in mood (for example, feelings of sadness or feelings of elation).

The interview takes approximately 30 minutes.

Debrief session

On completion of all neurocognitive activites, a member of the LABS research team will conduct a short debrief with the participant to receive feedback of how they have found the assessments.

Confirmation and information about the Brain Imaging assessment block will also be provided.

The debrief session takes approximately 10-15 minutes.

Brain imaging

These are common neurological assessments used in clinics and hospitals every day. MRI and EEG imaging are safe and should not cause distress or discomfort. You will be shown the MRI scanner and EEG lab before your assessment, so you will have the opportunity to see how the technology works and ask questions.

These activities include:

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI is a non-ionizing imaging technique that allows researchers to image all parts of the body, in this case the brain.

MRI utilises the natural magnetic properties of water molecules to generate signal and therefore build up a 3D map of all the different tissues within the body. The human brain is made up of~83% water and therefore provides a lot of MRI signal which we can measure to determine tissue properties, such as volume, metabolite concentration, structure and function.

MRI is a non-invasive technology. It requires no contrasting agents or dyes to be injected. Nor does it use radiation like x-rays and CT scans. No health risks have been associated with repeat exposure to MRIs.

Some people may experience claustrophobia or anxiety in the MRI scanner. The MRI radiographer is trained to deal with these situations. Imaging can be discontinued at any time.

It is important that certain metals do not enter the MRI. All LABS participants will undertake a MRI checklist to ensure it is safe for them to be imaged. LABS researchers will discuss this with participants and their parent/guardian at time of booking initial appointment.

The MRI brain imaging takes approximately 45 minutes.

Neurophysiological assessment, EEG

EEG stands for electroencephalography and it measures the brain’s electrical activity or ‘oscillations’, which represent the synchronised activity over a network of neurons (brain cells). EEG can tell us about how your brain idles (during resting) and also how it responds in order to process information (that is, when you undertake a specific task).

An EEG cap (which looks like a life savers cap with wires) is placed on the head. The wires are attached to the cap's recording discs which use a water-soluble gel to measure the naturally occurring electrical activity at the scalp. The gel makes contact to the scalp through the hair. EEG is a safe, non-invasive technology.

Some people may experience mild anxiety associated with following task instructions and performing in a 'test'. The anxiety usually lessens once the EEG assessment begins. LABS researchers are trained to provide support during these situations and will ensure participant comfort at all times. The EEG assessment can be discontinued at any time.

The EEG brain activity recording takes approximately 50 minutes.

Assessments blocks completed

On completion of all brain imaging activities, a member of the LABS research team will ask participant for feedback on the session.

Booking for the next assessment blocks will be made. Participants will receive a $20 reimbursement voucher and brain image, via email the next day.

Project results

As a participant, you will receive a newsletter keeping you up to date on the project. When the project is completed, you will receive a summary of the research findings. Research findings and results report on group level data. Latest news and updates will also be available through LABS News.

Participants will receive individual feedback by way of a picture of their brain image and a $20 reimbursement voucher after completion of each assessment. 15 images and vouchers in total.

Privacy and confidentiality

By participating in the LABS project, you give consent for your assessment results (called ‘data’) to be used in this project and related future projects. You and your parent or caregiver will sign a consent form at the beginning of your participation.

Only non-identifiable data is used. Non-identifiable data is data that has had all personal details removed (so there is no way to link you to the data). Any identifiable information you provide will remain confidential, and will not be disclosed without your permission.

You will not be named in any reports or publications resulting from the research project. Any publications based on the research project will include only pooled results from all the participants, so your results will not be singled out.

The information you give will be held in a secure location for seven (7) years after any reports or publications are published, after which any identifying information will be destroyed.

Informed consent

On submission of an Expression of Interest to Participate, a participant's parent or caregiver will be contacted by a member of the LABS research team to discuss the project, ensure the participant meets the inclusion criteria, and book the initial assessment appointment. An email confirming appointment time with attached location map and Research Project Information Sheet will be sent.

At the initial assessment appointment, a member of the LABS research team will discuss informed consent and explain the Research Project Information Sheet to both the participant and their parent or caregiver. Participation in LABS is voluntary, and consent to participate is required from both the participant and their parent or caregiver.

For more information refer to the Research Project Information Sheet (PDF 134KB) *

* For PDF documents you must have the free Adobe Acrobat Reader, which can be downloaded from the Adobe Download Page.

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