Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry is currently seeking children to participate in their research study on how the brain impacts appetite and metabolism. Who exactly are they looking for? Healthy kids ages 9-11 years old that do not have a history of any chronic diseases, eating disorders, or cognitive disorders, have no food allergies or dietary restrictions, not currently taking medications known to alter appetite, body weight, or brain response, and have no MRI contraindications.

“This study seeks to explore how the brain affects food intake and eating behavior in children over time,” said Anahys Aghababian, research program coordinator. “We are hoping to learn more about the differences in brain structure and function in children and if these differences affect the control of food intake over time.”

Enrolling your healthy child in a medical study might not be high on your priority list, but Aghababian encourages parents to consider how their participation in the study may help other families lead healthier lives in the future. Additionally, there will be a compensation up to $345 for the participation and completion of the study.

Curious about what’s involved? So we asked Aghababian to take us through some of the questions prospective parents might have. Here’s what we found out…

What is the time commitment for parents and children participating in the study?

Aghababian: This is a multi-site study, meaning it will take place at 2 locations (Baltimore, MD and Seattle, WA). We will be recruiting about 50 children at each site. Our study involves 3 in-person study visits to Johns Hopkins Hospital spread out over 12 months. The initial visit will be a remote or in-person screening visit to gather some information and confirm eligibility to join our study. If the child is eligible, the child and a parent will be invited to come in for Study Visit 1. Study Visit 2 will be 6 months after Visit 1, and the final visit (Study Visit 3) will take place 6 months after that.

What should parents and participating children expect at clinic visit?

Aghababian: Some study activities involve getting a blood draw, MRIs, meals throughout the day, urine collections, questionnaires, and body measurements. Study Visit 1 will begin with a fasted blood draw, followed by body measurements, questionnaires, 2 MRI scans, and meals throughout the day. Study visit 2 and 3 will consist of body measurements, urine collection, and questionnaires, with Visit 3 also inclusing 1 MRI. All study visits will last a couple of hours, except for Study Visit 1 which is expected to last about 5 hours.

Are there any risks to children participating in the study?

Aghababian: There may be some risks of participating in our study. There will be one blood draw and that may cause brief pain or dizziness in some participants. Completing some of our questionnaires may provoke anxiety or embarrassment in some participants. Some participants may not like the taste of the meal that we provide, and if a participant has any previously undiagnosed or undetected food or beverage related allergies, they may feel ill after consuming the meal that we provide. The risks associated with getting an MRI are very low, and there are no known physical side effects or risks from MRI procedures; however, participants may feel discomfort from laying still and the loud noises caused by the MRI machine or may get claustrophobic or anxious in the MRI machine. To keep our participants and study staff safe during COVID-19 pandemic, we have minimized the study’s amount of in-person contact as much as possible.

Since this particular study deals with adolescents, you’ll need a certain level of “buy-in” from the children participating in the study. What conversations should parents have with their children before enrolling them in the study?

Aghababian: We recommend that parents talk with their child about some of the reasons to participate in a study, which can be:

  • Contribution to science;
  • Learning more about the brain and contribute to advancing knowledge on how the brain works;
  • Learning about study procedures and research careers;
  • Compensation for participation.

If parents and children are interested in contributing to science and, particularly, in helping to understand how the brain works, the child is a good candidate for the study.

Johns Hopkins Medicine is currently enrolling new participants in the study. If you are interested, please contact Anahys Aghababian at [email protected].

Principal Investigator: Susan Carnell, PhD
JHM eIRB: IRB00210835


Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored by Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.