Oliver Woods is a participant in a youth mental health study by Thompson Institute designed to study the adolescent brain. Picture: John McCutcheon
Oliver Woods is a participant in a youth mental health study by Thompson Institute designed to study the adolescent brain. Picture: John McCutcheon

Study finds how to keep a child’s mind healthy

A RADICAL, world-first Sunshine Coast study has found links between a quality night's sleep and a child's mental wellbeing.

The findings have come in the first year of the University of the Sunshine Coast's Longitudinal Adolescent Brain Study, 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.

Oliver Woods is a participant in a youth mental health study by Thompson Institute designed to study the adolescent brain. Oliver chats to Professor Daniel Hermens. Picture: John McCutcheon
Oliver Woods is a participant in a youth mental health study by Thompson Institute designed to study the adolescent brain. Oliver chats to Professor Daniel Hermens. Picture: John McCutcheon

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."

Oliver Woods is a participant in a youth mental health study by Thompson Institute designed to study the adolescent brain. Picture: John McCutcheon
Oliver Woods is a participant in a youth mental health study by Thompson Institute designed to study the adolescent brain. Picture: John McCutcheon

Sunshine Coast Grammar principal Maria Woods' 12-year-old son Oliver was the 50th participant in the study.

Oliver 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.