Elizabeth Sowell, PhD - Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Elizabeth Sowell, PhD

Investigator, Division of Neurology, Department of Pediatrics
Professor of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine of USC

Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study  at CHLA is currently recruiting participants

The National Institutes of Health has launched a landmark study about the developing brain called the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. The ABCD study is a national longitudinal study that will recruit 10,000 youths and follow them over 10 years into early adulthood. The study seeks to address questions related to this critical developmental period including possible links to the risk for mental illness, the impact on physical health, psychological development, learning and memory and other behaviors. To learn more about the ABCD study, visit abcdstudy.org.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Elizabeth Sowell

Site Coordinator: Trinh Luu

Phone: (323) 361-7756

Email: abcd@chla.usc.edu    Website: http://abcdstudy.org/sites/chla.html


Medical School

University of California, Irvine, B.A. (Psychology); San Diego State University/University of California at San Diego, Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, Ph.D. (Neuropsychology)


University of Florida, Gainesville (Neuropsychology)


Professional Memberships

Society Memberships: Professional Flux Congress, 2013-Present; Organization for Human Brain Mapping, 2007-Present; Society for Neuroscience, 2000-Present


Pregnancy: No safe level of alcohol. Sowell ER, Charness ME, Riley EP. Nature. 2014 Sep 11;513(7517):172. doi: 10.1038/513172c. No abstract available.

Developmental Trajectories for Visuo-Spatial Attention are Altered by Prenatal Alcohol Exposure: A Longitudinal FMRI Study. Gautam P, Nuñez SC, Narr KL, Mattson SN, May PA, Adnams CM, Riley EP, Jones KL, Kan EC, Sowell ER. Cereb Cortex. 2014 Aug 4. pii: bhu162. [Epub ahead of print]

The clinical utility and specificity of parent report of executive function among children with prenatal alcohol exposure. Nguyen TT, Glass L, Coles CD, Kable JA, May PA, Kalberg WO, Sowell ER, Jones KL, Riley EP, Mattson SN; CIFASD. J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2014 Aug20(7):704-16. doi: 10.1017/S1355617714000599. Epub 2014 Jul 17.

The role of testosterone and estradiol in brain volume changes across adolescence: A longitudinal structural MRI study. Herting MM, Gautam P, Spielberg JM, Kan E, Dahl RE, Sowell ER. Hum Brain Mapp. 2014 Nov;35(11):5633-45. doi: 10.1002/hbm.22575. Epub 2014 Jun 30.

Effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on the development of white matter volume and change in executive function. Gautam P, Nuñez SC, Narr KL, Kan EC, Sowell ER. Neuroimage Clin. 2014 Jun 4;5:19-27. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2014.05.010. eCollection 2014.


Elizabeth Sowell, PhD and her team have been dedicated to understanding how the brain changes in structure and function both in typically developing children and adolescent populations, and in populations with neurodevelopmental disorders such as fetal alcohol syndrome and autism spectrum disorders. The ultimate goal of this research is to determine how changes in the brain relate to changes in behavior and cognitive function, and to identify opportunities for educational, behavioral and pharmacologic intervention to alter abnormal patterns of brain development.

Visit the Sowell Laboratory.


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CHLA - Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Awarded $6.8 Million Five-Year Grant to Help Lead National Consortium on Healthy Brain Development

ScienceDaily - Risk of lead exposure linked to decreased brain volume in adolescents

ABC-TV - UCLA, CHLA Study Looks At How Kids Grow Up To Be Successful

National Public Radio-Marketplace – Socioeconomic status could be affecting childrens' brains

NBC News – Being Poor affects Kids’ Brains. Study Finds

The New Yorker - What Poverty Does to the Young Brain

Nature  – Poverty shrinks brains from birth: Studies show that children from low-income families have smaller brains and lower cognitive abilities

Science – Poverty may affect the growth of children’s brains

The San Diego Union Tribune  – Higher income linked to smarter kids

Los Angeles Times – Can money buy your kids a bigger brain?

The Guardian – Brain development in children could be affected by poverty, study shows

NIH News – Heavy Prenatal Alcohol Linked to Childhood Brain Development Problems

The New York Times - Puberty Before Age 10: A New ‘Normal’?

Journal of Neuroscience - A Longitudinal Study of the Long-Term Consequences of Drinking During Pregnancy: Heavy In Utero Alcohol Exposure Disrupts the Normal Processes of Brain Development.

Science Daily – Studies Report Early Childhood Trauma Takes Visible Toll on Brain

NIH Drug Abuse - NIH launches landmark study on substance use and adolescent brain development 

Marketplace Morning Report

The Huffington Post- Study Reveals Sad Link Between Poverty And Children's Brain Development 

US News and World Report- Clues to How Heavy Drinking in Pregnancy Harms Child's Brain 

NBC Today Show-Surprise: Doc Who Devised Screen Time Limits Says iPads May Be OK For Babies

New York Times- Puberty Before Age 10: A New ‘Normal’?

Huffington Post- The Things You Don’t Remember Shape Who You Are

Science Daily- Alzheimer's gene may show effects on brain starting in childhood

WebMD- Is Screen Time OK for Preschoolers?

NIH- Learning the ABCD: A landmark study of adolescent brain and cognitive development


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Sowell Laboratory

4650 Sunset Blvd.
Smith Research Tower
Los Angeles, CA 90027
United States