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Recruiting adopted people aged 18-25 for brain imaging and psychology research


Ethics ref: 17962

We are recruiting adopted people to help us understand how early life experience impacts the brain and behaviour


Why are we conducting this research?


We would like to learn more about how early life experience influences the brain, behaviour, and the immune system later in life.  We would like to understand why certain early life experiences (e.g., adoption, stress and parental separation) can cause difficulties for some people when they are adults.  The long-term goal of this research is to develop tools that could identify young people who are vulnerable to developing future problems, this will ensure people get the help that they need at the right time for them. 


What would be involved if you took part?

This study will use psychological assessment, online games, brain imaging and blood sampling to help improve our understanding of how and why early life experience can influence mental health, cognition, brain development and the immune system later in life.


The study will take between 7 – 9 hours of your time, broken down into the following shorter sections:

  • Screening call (Zoom/telephone) to confirm eligibility (20 minutes)
  • Online demographic, clinical, and personality questionnaires (1.5 hours)
  • Online games (1.5 hours): these are similar to online “brain training” games and will be used to assess memory, impulsivity, attention, face recognition and social interaction.
  • Brain scan & blood test (1.5 hours): You will visit the University of Manchester and complete cognitive tasks whilst undergoing magnetic resonance imaging brain scan (1 hour) and provide a blood sample (30 minutes). 
  • Interviews & trauma questionnaires (1.5 – 3 hours): You will complete an interview about your mental health history (0.5 – 2 hours) and short questionnaires about your experience of childhood trauma (15 minutes). You can choose to do this remotely or when you visit the University of Manchester.
  • Additionally, some participants will be asked if they would like to complete an autism assessment (1 hour), this is an optional part of the study.


Contact details

If you are interested in participating, please contact the researcher at this email address:


Who is eligible to take part?

We are seeking young adults (18 – 25 years old) who are adopted to take part in this study.


Inclusion criteria:

  • Reside in the UK
  • Able to travel to the University of Manchester
  • Able to understand the study information and participate in the assessment procedures described below (independently or with reading support from a researcher, friend or family member)
  • Able to read text on a computer screen (using glasses or contact lenses if required)
  • Permanently removed from birth parents and adopted by the age of 11.


We encourage participation from a broad and diverse range of people for this study. You do not need to be experiencing any difficulties to take part, however we welcome individuals with learning difficulties, physical disabilities, mental health difficulties and neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., autism and ADHD). We will not exclude people currently taking medications for psychiatric or neurodevelopmental disorders. If you consider yourself to be experiencing a current severe mental health difficulty, (e.g., psychosis) please discuss this with us as we may need to discuss when and how you could take part.



  • You will be compensated for your time and travel expenses.


  • If you are travelling more than 2-hours to reach Manchester, you are also eligible for 1-night hotel accommodation.


  • If you require a support companion (friend, family member, social worker) to join you at the testing day (e.g., for safety, care or interpretation), please do let us know in advance, we can also reimburse their travel expenses.


What is the study location?

The face-to-face testing day will take place in two wheelchair accessible venues.


[1] Neuroscience and Psychiatry Unit, University of Manchester, Stopford Building, Oxford Road. Details of university parking (free of charge for Blue Badge Holders) can be found here:

[2] NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility (CRF), Grafton Street. 


Why is there an age range for this study?

We are currently planning a study that will include young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 years old. This is because we have an existing sample of adoptees that were recruited during childhood. We have been working with these individuals over a number of years and are now aiming to recruit and work with a new sample of adoptees that are the same age as our existing sample so that we have a large enough group to explore our study questions properly.   We understand that difficulties associated with early childhood stress manifest in diverse ways and at different stages of life so that work to understand the impact of trauma should be undertaken across the life-course. We hope that we will be able to continue our work into later adulthood so that we can explore the longer-term impacts of early childhood adversity in adult adoptees. 



Contact details