Proposal summaries

These are research proposals that have been approved by the ALSPAC exec. The titles include a B number which identifies the proposal and the date on which the proposals received ALSPAC exec approval.

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B3504 - The role of children and school closures in the transmission of COVID-19 - 30/04/2020

B number: 
B3504
Principal applicant name: 
Amy Thomas | University of Bristol, Bristol Veterinary School (UK)
Co-applicants: 
Dr Ellen Brooks Pollock, Professor Adam Finn , Dr Leon Danon, Dr Hannah Christensen, Dr Alice Halliday, Professor Mick Bailey, Dr Jane Metz, Dr Emily Nixon
Title of project: 
The role of children and school closures in the transmission of COVID-19
Proposal summary: 

School closures have been a central component of many countries’ response to contain COVID-19; however, we don’t know:
• What children do during unplanned school closures
• Whether children are infectious
• Whether other strategies could be equally effective.
Much of the policy is based on influenza, which does affect children more than SARS-CoV-2 [1].

Preliminary evidence suggests that children are able to become infected with SARS-CoV-2, but are either asymptomatic or show mild symptoms, with a minority of cases progressing to disease [2]. The role of healthy children in transmitting SARS-CoV-2 remains uncertain. It is of interest to define how many children do/don’t experience COVID-19 symptoms and have evidence of having had SARS-CoV-2 infection, this may have implications for transmission dynamics and policy decisions. Along with many European countries, the UK decided to close schools from March 23rd in an effort to slow SARS-CoV-2 transmission - only some vulnerable children and those of key workers remain in school. We do not know what children’s contact patterns are during this unplanned school closure, but there is evidence that contacts inside and outside the home might continue, especially for older children and where parents don’t agree with closures [3]. We propose to deploy a survey to G2 ALSPAC children to capture data on symptoms and contact patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well determine evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection through saliva antibody detection methods.

Impact of research: 
Understanding the role of children in transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is essential to inform the rapidly developing policies in response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and for informing current and future policies in response to infectious disease outbreaks. Ellen Brooks-Pollock and Leon Danon are contributors to the UK Government pandemic modelling advisory group, so these results will have immediate impact. Linking antibody detection to the planned contact survey allows i) assessment of the contribution of children in transmitting SARS-CoV-2, and ii) enhances the accuracy of self-reported disease surveillance. This has immediate impact on transmission control. The adverse effects of school closures (secondary economic and societal) simply might outweigh the perceived benefit until we better understand the role of children in transmission of SARS-CoV-2. This study will offer insights into novel control strategies, possibly negating full school closures. Finally, this work is part of a larger rapid response of researchers at the University of Bristol (Bristol UNCOVER). Collection of paediatric saliva samples during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic will be of high value to investigate the natural history of mucosal immune responses to SARS-CoV-2.
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 9 April, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 20 April, 2020
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Infection, Computer simulations/modelling/algorithms, Qualitative study, Statistical methods, Biological samples -e.g. blood, cell lines, saliva, etc., Cohort studies - attrition, bias, participant engagement, ethics, Immunity

B3506 - Examining patterns and predictors of mental health during and in response to COVID-19 - 17/04/2020

B number: 
B3506
Principal applicant name: 
Alex Kwong | University of Bristol
Co-applicants: 
Dr Rebecca Pearson, Professor Nic Timpson, Dr Kate Northstone, Dr Simon Haworth, Professor David Gunell, Professor Paul Moran, Professor Kate Tilling
Title of project: 
Examining patterns and predictors of mental health during and in response to COVID-19
Proposal summary: 

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had and will continue to have an unprecedented effect of daily living for the foreseeable future. Aside from the obvious effects of COVID-19 on physical health, this pandemic is also likely to have a profound effect on mental health. The knock on effects on mental health could be far reaching and long term especially if not understood and managed.

In addition, it is likely to exacerbate existing inequalities and the costs are likely to be felt disproportionately to the already most vulnerable ( those with a history of mental illness, job and housing insecurity , poor neighbourhoods , single parents and those in abusive relationships).

A number of rapid surveys have indicated an initial perceived rise in depression and anxiety symptoms. However, without pre-pandemic information, an accurate indication of the change is not possible. This is essential for modelling projected risk which needs to be taken into account when planning further policy regarding social distancing and lock down enforcements.

Longitudinal data is thus crucial. It is also important to identify at risk groups who could benefit from immediate help and planning for currently unknown policies for recovery stages. This project will use the unique data hosted by ALSPAC to examine how and why mental health changes as a result of the public health policies adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Impact of research: 
This research is likely to be one the first longitudinal studies of mental health during COVID-19 and will provide evidence for public health and policy makers about how mental health is changing throughout this pandemic.
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 14 April, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Friday, 17 April, 2020
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Mental health, Statistical methods

B3503 - The impact of public health measures adopted to control the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health of parents and children risk and - 17/04/2020

B number: 
B3503
Principal applicant name: 
Rebecca Pearson | University of Bristol
Co-applicants: 
Helen Bould , Professor Catharine Creswell , Dr. Alex Kwong , Dr Elise Paul
Title of project: 
The impact of public health measures adopted to control the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health of parents and children, risk and
Proposal summary: 

The impact of the public health measures adopted to control the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of parents and children is unknown but is likely to vary by existing vulnerabilities and social inequalities. New information is vital to inform future policies and recovery. A number of rapid cross sectional surveys have started to collect data on adult and young people’s mental health during the COVID-19 crisis. However, such designs lack important information about mental health preceding the pandemic to more accurately understand changes and risk or resilience to showing a rise in emotional and behavioural problems. Thus, data in longitudinal studies is especially important. There are over 800 ALSPAC next generation children ranging in age from 0 – 11 years, with the majority at the younger ages of under 8 years. This is also an age range which has not been included in existing efforts nationally, with existing surveys focusing on school age or above. In ALSPAC-G2 children and their parents have already provided data from their parents before and during pregnancy and in the children from birth. Pre-pandemic measures include mental health in parents (and grandparents) and emotional and behavioural problems in children. By re-contacting families at this time and sending a brief online questionnaire to repeat emotional and behavioural problems scales, as well as COVID-19 specific worries matched to other national surveys, we can understand the immediate impact of this crisis on children, the extent to which this is linked to the impact on parents and possible protective strategies such as keeping routines, as well as track this as the cohort grow up.

Impact of research: 
To estimate the psychological impact on parents and young children and inform policy/guidance by identifying protective factors (such as use of routines ) and high risk groups.
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 8 April, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Friday, 17 April, 2020
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Statistical methods, Psychology - personality

B3507 - Alcohol 18 to 30 - 24/04/2020

B number: 
B3507
Principal applicant name: 
Jon Heron | UOB (UK)
Co-applicants: 
Prof Matt Hickman, Dr Becky Mars
Title of project: 
Alcohol 18 to 30
Proposal summary: 

Alcohol is the leading cause of ill-health in young adults in the UK and Europe and is the fifth leading cause across all ages in the UK population and is estimated to be the seventh leading cause globally . There are over 1 million alcohol related hospital admissions and nearly 25,000 alcohol related deaths a year in England with trends, in stark comparison to other major causes of death, not yet decreasing.

Since our previous grant (ALSPAC Alcohol at 24) there have been several important changes to our understanding of the risks of alcohol, patterns of drinking in the population, and UK response to preventing alcohol related harms.

First, levels of drinking reported by adolescents in UK and many other countries have fallen, corresponding with a fall in alcohol related hospital admissions in those under 18, but not yet resulting in any measurable decline in alcohol related harms in young adults . The motivation, reasons (and potential modifiable factors) causing the decline are not yet known but under investigation. In adults in the UK there is some evidence that changes in alcohol use has been differential with greater reductions in low level drinkers and no change in heavier drinkers with subsequently little overall impact on alcohol related harms. At the same time harmful alcohol use has been recognised as an important contributor to the “deaths of despair” that have reduced life expectancy – especially among poorer and more marginal populations - in North America.

Second, in large well powered genetic studies (and against decades of observational data) the cardio-protective effect of alcohol has been shown to be false – and instead likely to be due to non-causal factors all along (such as confounding, selection bias and reverse causation). This implies that there is no compensation of low levels of alcohol use improving morbidity and mortality and no absolutely “safe” or “non-risky” levels of drinking – and clear benefits from reducing average consumption. The UK in line with other countries issued new guidelines on safe drinking levels – which are now the same for men and women – though evidence is unclear whether there have been any changes in the UK population as a result of the new guidance. Policy changes also are underway – notably in Scotland - based on economic models that show how introducing and raising minimum price of alcohol can reduce future alcohol related morbidity and mortality. [There have been other advances in use of MR and genetic markers to identify new targets for drug discovery, compare the impact of interventions, and test for interactions between behavioural exposures – but in European populations MR of alcohol use and AUD have been limited by lack of robust markers.]

Third, it is argued that alcohol related health harms may be under-estimated in part because cohort studies under-represent heavier drinking marginal populations but also because of an under-appreciation of the interaction of alcohol with other exposures. The burden of alcohol is greater in poorer communities, alcohol combines with other exposures to increase risk of liver disease, and alcohol can act as a “snare” increasing the persistence and halting the resolution of antisocial behaviour. This has led to a renewed focus on understanding how adverse alcohol trajectories develop and interact with other exposures to increase health and social harms to strengthen the evidence base ultimately for policy-makers but also for alcohol policy models that can show the impact of alternative prevention strategies.

Impact of research: 
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 16 April, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Friday, 17 April, 2020
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Addiction - e.g. alcohol, illicit drugs, smoking, gambling, etc., Injury (including accidents), Liver function

B3505 - Maternal iodine status in pregnancy and association with social/behavioural disorders in offspring - 17/04/2020

B number: 
B3505
Principal applicant name: 
Sarah Bath | University of Surrey (UK)
Co-applicants: 
Dr Madhu Wickremaratchi
Title of project: 
Maternal iodine status in pregnancy and association with social/behavioural disorders in offspring
Proposal summary: 

Iodine is essential during pregnancy as it is required for fetal brain development. It is known that low iodine status in pregnancy is linked to lower IQ and reading ability scores. In some other cohorts mild-to-moderate deficiency or subtle impairments of maternal thyroid function has been linked to conditions such as ADHD and autism. We now want to explore the relationship between mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency in UK women with social/behavioural disorders in children.

Impact of research: 
Further evidence of the role of iodine in pregnancy in areas of mild-to-moderate deficiency, building on our previous work with ALSPAC data.
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 14 April, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Friday, 17 April, 2020
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Statistical methods, Biological samples -e.g. blood, cell lines, saliva, etc.

B3501 - Alcohol use in the late 20s - 14/04/2020

B number: 
B3501
Principal applicant name: 
Jon Heron | UOB (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Prof Matt Hickman
Title of project: 
Alcohol use in the late 20's
Proposal summary: 

Data collection

Impact of research: 
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 8 April, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 14 April, 2020
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Addiction - e.g. alcohol, illicit drugs, smoking, gambling, etc.

B3502 - Adult peak Circulatory capacity Mechanisms and Exposures ACME - 14/04/2020

B number: 
B3502
Principal applicant name: 
Alun Hughes | UCL (UK)
Co-applicants: 
Nic Timpson, Siana Jones, Dr Laura Howe, Prof Mark Hamer, Prof Deborah Lawlor, Prof Nish Chaturvedi, George Davey Smith, Alicja Rapala, Dr Martin Schultz
Title of project: 
Adult peak Circulatory capacity; Mechanisms and Exposures (ACME)
Proposal summary: 

Cardiovascular disease remains a major cause of ill-health and death. Maximum aerobic capacity (VO2p), a measure of circulatory capacity, is a strong predictor of future cardiovascular (CV) disease and general health. Most inter-individual differences in VO2p are established by age 30 and VO2p subsequently declines with age. The factors responsible for differences in peak circulatory capacity at maturity are not understood and we will identify them by studying participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a birth cohort of over 15,000 individuals who have undergone detailed studies since before birth. This study will provide a unique insight into the determinants of peak circulatory capacity in adults and identify potentially modifiable factors for improvement of future cardiovascular health.

Impact of research: 
This study will provide a unique insight into the determinants of peak circulatory capacity in adults and identify potentially modifiable factors for improvement of future cardiovascular health.
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 8 April, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 14 April, 2020
Keywords: 
Cardiovascular, Diabetes, Hypertension, Medical imaging, Metabolomics, NMR, Proteomics, Cardiovascular

B3497 - Investigating the Genetic Architecture and Risk Factors of Epilepsy - 07/04/2020

B number: 
B3497
Principal applicant name: 
Benjamin Neale | Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Broad Institute (USA)
Co-applicants: 
Yen-Chen Anne Feng, Daniel Howrigan
Title of project: 
Investigating the Genetic Architecture and Risk Factors of Epilepsy
Proposal summary: 

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects one percent of the population. Genetic factors play a role in epilepsy, but the full spectrum of the genetic architecture for this disorder is unknown. Previous work indicates that rare variation may contribute to epilepsy risk, but large sample sizes are required to increase the likelihood of identifying new risk genes or variants. The goal of this project is to investigate the genetic components of epilepsy in a large, well-characterized epilepsy cohort, in collaboration with Epi25, a consortium of over 50 epilepsy investigators. Whole exome sequencing (WES) data from epilepsy samples generated at the Broad Institute will be analyzed with ALSPAC WES data and other locally available or dbGaP-sourced controls to identify genes or variants associated with epilepsy. The inclusion of the ALSPAC data will be a valuable contribution to increase power in downstream analyses.

Impact of research: 
This research aims to identify individual risk genes for epilepsy and to elucidate the shared and distinct gene discoveries across the severity spectrum for epilepsy syndromes. This will improve our understanding of the genetic etiology of epilepsy associated with rare coding variants, provide gene targets for functional follow-up, and ultimately have the potential to facilitate precision medicine strategies in the treatment of epilepsy.
Date proposal received: 
Monday, 6 April, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 7 April, 2020
Keywords: 
Genetics, Epilepsy, Statistical methods, Genetics, Genomics, Neurology, Statistical methods

B3500 - Examining the association between childhood bilingualism and cognitive functioning in adulthood - 07/04/2020

B number: 
B3500
Principal applicant name: 
Polly Barr | University of Bristol (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Dr Liam Mahney, Professor Markus Damian, Professor Marcus Munafo, Miss Hayley Tseng
Title of project: 
Examining the association between childhood bilingualism and cognitive functioning in adulthood
Proposal summary: 

For the last 20 years the effects of bilingualism have been extensively studied in experimental psychology. Despite numerous well-designed studies and meta-analysis there is no consensus whether or not there are executive functioning benefits in those who speak more than one language. Potentially small sample sizes and retrospective data collection are the cause of this.

The bilingual advantage is embedded in the theory that bilinguals constantly inhibit a non-target language when speaking; strengthening a non-specific cognitive domain inhibitory control mechanism resulting in benefits on tasks that require inhibition. By investigating cognition (in particular inhibitory control) throughout a child’s life alongside their exposure to a second language and other confounding variables we hope to finally gain consensus on whether bilingualism can affect cognition.

The bilingual advantage has been thought to have a protective effect over dementia and cognitive decline in older adults. By establishing that there is a bilingual advantage that could be protective of dementia has the potential to be a major public health advantage.

Impact of research: 
This research project has the potential to inform whether or not there is a bilingual advantage therefore also informing us of the mechanism of the bilingual advantage. This has the potential to inform us regarding the protective aspect of bilingualism on dementia (if there is no advantage to being bilingual then any protective effect found is a confound).
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 7 April, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 7 April, 2020
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Gene mapping, GWAS, Statistical methods, Biomarkers - e.g. cotinine, fatty acids, haemoglobin, etc., Cognition - cognitive function, Environment - enviromental exposure, pollution, Genetic epidemiology, Genome wide association study, Mendelian randomisation, Bilingualism

B3496 - Understanding the intergenerational transmission of risk for offspring mental health cognitive and educational outcomes - 20/04/2020

B number: 
B3496
Principal applicant name: 
Jean-Baptiste Pingault | Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology University College London (UK)
Co-applicants: 
Dr Biyao Wang, Dr Biyao Wang
Title of project: 
Understanding the intergenerational transmission of risk for offspring mental health, cognitive and educational outcomes
Proposal summary: 

Parental risk factors are among the strongest early predictors of offspring mental health, cognitive and educational outcomes. This transmission of risk across generations hinders social mobility. Interventions targeting parents may thus appear promising. However, such interventions can only succeed if the relationship between parental risks and offspring outcomes are causal, which remains unclear. Here, we propose to use genetically informed design to better characterize the intergenerational pathways underlying risk transmission.

Impact of research: 
Outcome 1: Policy impact. Our project will provide further insights into aspects of the home environment that could be targeted in future preventive interventions. To maximize impact, we will work with The Early Intervention and the Nuffield foundations, in addition to UCL Policy Impact. Outcome 2: Academic impact. Several articles will be delivered, aiming for high impact publications, along with exposure at national and two international conferences. Outcome 3: Contribute to scientific education. We will engage the wider public through the following pathways: (i) communicate research findings through cohort specific mechanisms; (ii) collaborating with the dedicated communication teams at the Centre for Longitudinal Study and the wider UCL to write press releases; (iii)
Date proposal received: 
Monday, 6 April, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 6 April, 2020
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, The project does not focus on diseases but rather adopts a dimensional perspective on different domains of child and adolescent development. , Statistical methods, Cognition - cognitive function, Development, Fathers, Genetic epidemiology, Methods - e.g. cross cohort analysis, data mining, mendelian randomisation, etc., Offspring, Parenting, Psychology - personality

B3494 - Metabolomic association studies of cortical thickness and microstructural properties of the brain in children and adolescents - 06/04/2020

B number: 
B3494
Principal applicant name: 
Jihyung (Jean) Shin | SickKids, University of Toronto
Co-applicants: 
Dr. Zdenka Pausova, Dr. Tomas Paus, Mr. Andrei Mouraviev
Title of project: 
Metabolomic association studies of cortical thickness and microstructural properties of the brain in children and adolescents
Proposal summary: 
Impact of research: 
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 2 April, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 6 April, 2020
Keywords: 
Developmental biology, Medical imaging, Metabolomics, Statistical methods, Development, Metabolimic association study

B3493 - Pervasive vs Situational ADHD Mechanisms Trajectories Comorbidity Gender Differences and Long-Term Outcome - 06/04/2020

B number: 
B3493
Principal applicant name: 
Matilda Frick | Department of psychology, Uppsala University (Sweden)
Co-applicants: 
Edmund Sonuga-Barke, Professor
Title of project: 
Pervasive vs. Situational ADHD: Mechanisms, Trajectories, Comorbidity, Gender Differences, and Long-Term Outcome
Proposal summary: 

ADHD is a condition marked by symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity persistent over time, present and causing impairment in at least two contexts, such as in the school and at home. However, the degree to which symptoms are present across situations varies from individual to individual. At one end of the spectrum, children may show severe symptoms in several contexts (that is, pervasive ADHD) while others show severe symptoms only in one context (that is, situational ADHD). What underpins the pervasive and situational manifestations is not well understood, and the impact of pervasive and situational dysfunction on future outcome (such as mental health, occupation, and educational status) needs further investigation. Different underlying mechanisms may relate in specific ways to the degree to which ADHD is expressed pervasively or situationally in the school or home setting. In the current study, we focus specifically on the role of executive functioning (that is, goal-directed behavior), emotion processing, and aspects of the family environment, in this matter. We will examine how pervasive and situational ADHD symptoms evolve over time, mapping possible underlying mechanisms, gender differences, and long-term outcome in a large community sample. The findings will have implications for our understanding of the etiology, maintenance, treatment, and prevention of the diagnosis.

Impact of research: 
The findings will have implications for our understanding of the etiology of ADHD from a multiple pathway perspective, of maintenance of symptoms over time, and how symptoms present i different contexts affect concurrent and future outcome regarding behavior problems, mental health, and occupational and educational status. In the longer perspective the results will have implications for treatment and prevention of symptoms.
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 2 April, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 6 April, 2020
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Mental health, ADHD, Statistical methods, Cognition - cognitive function, Development, Parenting, Sex differences, Emotion processing Long-term outcome

B3495 - 3D whole body scans - 06/04/2020

B number: 
B3495
Principal applicant name: 
Abigail Fraser | MRC IEU, PHS (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Dr Michael Suttie , Dr Christoffer Nellaker, Prof Cecilia Lindgren
Title of project: 
3D whole body scans
Proposal summary: 

The aim of this project's initial phase is to determine the feasibility of batch converting existing 3D whole body scans data into a generic file type so that they can be readily analysed. This is to support the development of future funding bids to use the scan data to investigate genetic determinant of body shape and its cardiovascular consequences.

Impact of research: 
Assembling scan data in a useable format in support of future funding bids by the current team of researchers and making it available to the wider scientific community.
Date proposal received: 
Monday, 6 April, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 6 April, 2020
Keywords: 
Genetic epidemiology (including association studies and mendelian randomisation), GWAS, Statistical methods, Machine learning, BMI, Cardiovascular, Genetic epidemiology

B3498 - Body muscle and metabolism in middle age - 06/04/2020

B number: 
B3498
Principal applicant name: 
Joshua Bell | University of Bristol (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Dr Kaitlin Wade, Prof George Davey Smith
Title of project: 
Body muscle and metabolism in middle age
Proposal summary: 

Higher body fatness is a likely cause of heart disease, but how the harms of body fat compare with the potential benefits of body muscle – another metabolically active body compartment – is unclear. This project aims to use data on body scanning and metabolism from ALSPAC parents in mid-life to determine which aspects of body muscle – whether higher volume based on body scanning or higher strength based on hand grip tests – most strongly influence a set of detailed traits related to adult heart disease susceptibility. It also aims to determine how the cardiometabolic profile of body muscle compares with the profile of body fat. Together with results from complementary studies, these results should help clarify which aspects of body composition are most important to target with limited public resources in order to prevent the onset of heart disease.

Impact of research: 
The likely output of this research will be at least one publication in a general medical or epidemiology journal, the impact of which is expected to be theoretical advancement in active research fields of body composition and heart disease and contributions towards more refined clinical and public health recommendations.
Date proposal received: 
Monday, 6 April, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 6 April, 2020
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Body muscle: Metabolism; Cardiovascular disease, Metabolomics, Metabolic - metabolism

B3499 - Characterising trajectories and transitions in tobacco nicotine and cannabinoid use and their relationship to mental health - 10/04/2020

B number: 
B3499
Principal applicant name: 
Hannah Sallis | MRC IEU (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Dr Lindsey Hines, Dr Hannah Jones, Professor Marcus Munafo, Professor Paul Moran
Title of project: 
Characterising trajectories and transitions in tobacco, nicotine and cannabinoid use, and their relationship to mental health
Proposal summary: 

Tobacco and cannabis use are key public health concerns. Both tobacco and cannabis are consistently associated with the development of common mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Prevalence of mental illness in the UK is rapidly increasing, and has increased particularly among adolescents and young adults. Tobacco and cannabis use appear to be plausible targets for intervention to improve mental health. However, there are a number of challenges that have hindered understanding of this relationship, and which have implications for how interventions should be targeted. Firstly, substance use and common mental disorders both tend to have onset in adolescence, so it is difficult to establish temporality in this relationship. Secondly, substance use and mental health share common risk factors through genes and early-life events, so it is difficult to establish whether the relationship is causal or due to shared confounding. Thirdly, the effect of substance use on mental health may not be a direct effect. It is plausible that this relationship is mediated by the social and economic adult role transitions following adolescence, or that substance use itself may be a mediating factor between early life exposures and mental health. Finally, the effects of the aforementioned changes in tobacco and cannabis products on substance use patterns and mental health are currently unknown.

We propose to investigate key questions regarding causality and opportunities for intervention in the relationship between tobacco use, cannabis use (and their constituents) and mental health.

Impact of research: 
The impacts will be twofold: firstly, they will contribute to ongoing policy-relevant discussions regarding the relationship between substance use and mental health, and will have utility for informing targets for intervention. Secondly, this research will form a resource for future longitudinal studies into the long-term effects of new methods of administering tobacco and cannabinoids. By collecting these data now we will be uniquely placed to study the long-term effects of use of these new products, which will be important for informing future public health.
Date proposal received: 
Monday, 6 April, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 6 April, 2020
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Addiction - e.g. alcohol, illicit drugs, smoking, gambling, etc., Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Mental health, Statistical methods, Genetic epidemiology, Mendelian randomisation, Offspring, Statistical methods

B3490 - Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Cardiometabolic Risk in ALSPAC Cohort - 31/03/2020

B number: 
B3490
Principal applicant name: 
Daniel Kerr | University of Glasgow (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Professor Helen Minnis, Prof Rebecca Reynolds, Dr Abigail Fraser
Title of project: 
Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Cardiometabolic Risk in ALSPAC Cohort
Proposal summary: 

Neurodevelopmental disorders (such as autism, ADHD, learning disability, and Tic Disorders) are lifelong conditions which begin in childhood and can have significant impacts on physical and mental health, and social well-being across the lifespan.
People with neurodevelopmental disorders have reduced life expectancy than people without such conditions (neurotypicals). Cardiovascular disease (such as heart attacks and strokes) is a significant contributor to this reduced life-expectancy. It is unclear why people with neurodevelopmental disorders are at increased risk of premature cardiovascular disease. Possible explanations include higher levels of cardiovascular risk factors (such as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity) in people with neurodevelopmental disorders; difficulties in people with neurodevelopmental disorders accessing healthcare; and potentially shared biological mechanisms which contribute to causing both neurodevelopmental disorders and cardiovascular disease (such as over or under active immune systems).

This project aims to improve understanding of the association of neurodevelopmental disorders and cardiovascular disease. We aim to compare rates of cardiovascular risk factors (blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, glucose, insulin, and CRP- a measure of the immune system) and very early cardiovascular disease (as measured by the stiffness of arteries) between young adults (at aged 17 and 24) with neurodevelopmental disorders and without. We predict that young adults with neurodevleopmental disorders will have higher rates of both cardiovascular risk factors and very early cardiovascular disease when compared with neurotypical young adults. If this were to the case it would support a view that people with neurodevelopmental disorders are inherantly at increased risk of cardiovascular disease independent of their access to healthcare and would support policies for screening and early intervention in this group.

Impact of research: 
We hypothesis that young adults with neurodevelopmental conditions will have higher burdens of cardiovascular risk factors and subclinical cardiovascular disease than neurotypical young adults, we further hypothesis that there will be a dose response relationship between number of neurodevelopmental disorder and burden of cardiovascular risk factors and subclinical cardiovascular disease. If this is the case it will support that people with neurodevelopmental disorders are inherently at increased risk of cardiosvuarl disease independent of their access to healthcare which would support policies of early screening and preventative interventions in this group. Furthermore it would support further research to explore mechanisms of this association. If our hypothesis is not supported it would suggest that the differences in outcome are occurring later in the lifespan and would support further research in different samples (or in ALSPAC in the future) to elucidate these mechanisms.
Date proposal received: 
Friday, 27 March, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 31 March, 2020
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Developmental disorders - autism, Hypertension, Mental health, Obesity, Statistical methods, Blood pressure, BMI, Cardiovascular, Statistical methods

B3491 - fasting insulin GWAS - 31/03/2020

B number: 
B3491
Principal applicant name: 
David A Hughes | University of Bristol MRC-IEU (UK)
Co-applicants: 
Dr. Laura Corbin, Dr Eleanor Wheeler
Title of project: 
fasting insulin GWAS
Proposal summary: 

A genome-wide association study of fasting insulin, proinsulin, glucagon, and Stumvoll insulin sensitivity index, and insulin fold change to identify the genetic architecture of these traits.

Impact of research: 
data estimates will be shared with a large consortium which will prove vital in estimate precision and power.
Date proposal received: 
Sunday, 29 March, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 31 March, 2020
Keywords: 
Genetic epidemiology (including association studies and mendelian randomisation), Diabetes, GWAS, BMI, Genetic epidemiology, Genomics, Genome wide association study

B3492 - Discovering the person behind the data Assembling and validating vulnerable childrens life histories from quantitative data - 27/04/2020

B number: 
B3492
Principal applicant name: 
Elaine Sharland | University of Sussex, UK (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Dr Paula Holland
Title of project: 
Discovering the person behind the data: Assembling and validating vulnerable children's life histories from quantitative data
Proposal summary: 

This proof of concept proposal (to ESRC Research Methods Development https://esrc.ukri.org/funding/funding-opportunities/esrc-rmdg-2020/), aims to test the validity of an innovative research approach bringing narrative/life history methods to quantitative longitudinal data, to deepen their explanatory power. Drawing on Singer et al (1998), the investigators have to date developed the method to yield insights (missing from aggregate analyses) into the impact of illness on women’s employment trajectories (Holland, 2006), and counterintuitive aggregate findings that children and families receiving social work fare worse over time than similar others (Sharland et al, 2017).The validity of the approach now needs testing. If successful, it may be applied to multiple research questions and cohort/panel datasets, releasing narrative potential to discover the people behind the data and to explain complexity and change, especially in the absence of complementary qualitative longitudinal data.

Substantive focus will be on children with significant health-related difficulties as teenagers, exploring how these vulnerabilities are affected and affect their lives over time. A small sample of longstanding ALSPAC child, and unrelated parent, participants will be invited to: i) allow the research team to craft the child and family’s life history from multiple variables collected directly from and/or administratively linked to the respondent over time; ii) participate in research interviews exploring the fit between their own and ‘research-assembled’ life story accounts; iii) permit analysis of this fit to be informed by further ALSPAC data mapped to their self-reports. Care will be taken to ensure informed consent and confidentiality throughout. If the inter-story compatibility is sufficiently strong, a scaled-up bid to a further ESRC call will follow.

Impact of research: 
This is a small-scale proof of concept project. If successful, it will provide the foundation for a scaled-up bid to a planned further ESRC Research Methods Development call. The project already has the interest and support of stakeholders within the child wellbeing and welfare sectors (representatives of the National Children’s Bureau, Research in Practice and the Children’s Commissioner’s Office will, for example, be invited to join the project Advisory Group). There are also synergies between this work and PI Sharland’s current collaboration with the Rees Centre, University of Oxford (leading) and other colleagues, on a strategic research bid to the Nuffield Foundation on improving Data for Children. If successful, this project will contribute to the wider research and policy agenda to maximise the use and linkage of existing data about, from and with children. More broadly, if validity can be sufficiently well demonstrated, this method has potential for much wider use with multiple datasets, allowing social and health scientists to maximise the value of existing longitudinal data to interrogate and shed light on multiple research questions.
Date proposal received: 
Monday, 30 March, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 31 March, 2020
Keywords: 
Social Science, Cancer, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity

B3489 - Violent and nonviolent crime under the influence of alcohol - 27/03/2020

B number: 
B3489
Principal applicant name: 
Gemma Hammerton | University of Bristol (UK)
Co-applicants: 
Dr Jon Heron, Ieuan Evans
Title of project: 
Violent and nonviolent crime under the influence of alcohol
Proposal summary: 

Strong associations exist between alcohol consumption and crime, but the extent to which these associations are causal is unclear. One hypothesised explanation is that the pharmacological effects of alcohol reduce cognitive capacity, and risk perception leading to an increased risk of committing a crime while under the influence of alcohol. We propose to examine the extent to which associations detected are causal using data collected at the ALSPAC focus clinic at age 24 years on committing crime while sober (which cannot be due to the situational effects of intoxication) and while under the influence of alcohol. We will examine the effects of alcohol consumption (prevalence, frequency, quantity) on violent and nonviolent crime, compare the association between drinking and engaging in crime while sober to the association between drinking and crime, and investigate whether cognitive factors (such as impulsivity, poor working memory and poor emotion recognition) increase the risk of crime while under the influence of alcohol.

Impact of research: 
This research is for a dissertation project within the MSc Epidemiology. It will therefore result in an electronic poster to be presented at a student research symposium, a dissertation report and a published paper. A better understanding of the extent to which the association between alcohol consumption and crime is causal will improve prevention and intervention strategies for criminal behaviour in young people. Identifying cognitive factors that increase the risk of crimes being committed under the influence of alcohol will improve targeted invention strategies.
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 26 March, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Friday, 27 March, 2020
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Addiction - e.g. alcohol, illicit drugs, smoking, gambling, etc., Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Cognitive impairment, Statistical methods, Cognition - cognitive function, Statistical methods

B3488 - Mental health and educational outcomes in high-risk children - 02/04/2020

B number: 
B3488
Principal applicant name: 
Anita Thapar | Cardiff Univeristy
Co-applicants: 
Prof Gordon Harold, Prof Leslie Leve, Dr Lucy Riglin, Prof Anna Vignoles, Prof Emla Fitzsimons, Prof Chris Taylor
Title of project: 
Mental health and educational outcomes in high-risk children
Proposal summary: 
Impact of research: 
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 26 March, 2020
Date proposal approved: 
Thursday, 26 March, 2020
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Mental health, Statistical methods, Mental health; education

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