A little bit of spit can help us make a healthier world!

Your genes and the environment around you help to shape your physical and mental well-being.

Spit for Science 2

We are inviting 30,000 children and adolescents visiting the Ontario Science Centre (OSC) to become Junior Scientists as part of research project called Spit for Science.

We will ask our Junior Scientists and their parents to complete questionnaires about behaviour (the way you act), play a computer game to understand cognition (the way you think), as well as physical health and well-being. Using Postal Codes, we can estimate many different aspects of your environment (e.g., how close you live to green space or exposure to air pollution). Finally, we will ask our Junior Scientists to spit in a small tube so that we can collect DNA and swab their tongue to get info about bacteria in their mouths!

We can discover how your genes work with the environment to impact your mental and physical health. Our aim is to recruit a sample of 30,000 children and adolescents from the community to further the understanding the etiology of childhood mental and physical health. In genetic research, we need as many people as possible.

This study is a continuation of Spit for Science 1 that ran at the Ontario Science Centre in 2008-2009. Spit for Science 2 will expand on Spit for Science 1 in four important ways, by:

  1. Recruiting 30,000 new participants;

  2. Adding new measures of behaviour and cognition (error detection and sustained attention);

  3. Estimating environmental risks using geospatial mapping of postal codes;

  4. Exploring gene X environment interactions across aspects of children and youth mental and physical health;

  5. Looking at how the oral microbiome (bacteria in our mouths) might affect how we think and feel

Interested in participating?
Visit us at the Ontario Science Centre!

You can participate in Spit for Science if you:

Have questions?

For more information, please contact:
Alex Chan,
Clinical Research Project Coordinator

Email: spitfor.science2@sickkids.ca

Click Below to Learn More!

Principal Investigator & Co-Investigators:

Jennifer Crosbie, PhD (PI)

Russell Schachar, MD (Co-I)

Paul Arnold, MD, PhD (Co-I; University of Calgary)

Christie Burton, PhD (Co-I)

Primary Collaborators:

Paul Peters, PhD (Carleton University)

Lisa Strug, PhD (SickKids)

Andrew Paterson, MD (SickKids)

Stephen Scherer, PhD (SickKids)

Anna Goldenberg, PhD (SickKids)

Jacob Vorstman, MD, PhD (SickKids)

Spit for Science 1

In Spit for Science 1, which ran at the OSC for 16 months between 2008-2009, we collected DNA, mental health information, behavioural and cognitive trait (response inhibition) measures in >17,000 youth. A large subset of the sample has currently has genome-wide microarray data.

Highlights of our results from Spit for Science 1 include:

  1. The first replicated genome-wide significant risk loci for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) traits (Burton et al. 2021) 
  2. The first study of copy number variants (CNVs) associated with mental health and cognitive traits in the general pediatric population (Zarrei et al., 2023) 
  3. Developed and validated a new measure for obsessive-compulsive traits (Park et al., 2016; Burton et al., 2018) 
  4. Demonstrated that genetic risk for clinically diagnosed ADHD are associated with ADHD traits measured in the community (Burton et al., 2019)
  5. Mapped the development of response inhibition and error processing across development (Crosbie et al., 2013; Dupuis et al., 2019
  6. Established the heritability of several mental health traits in the general population (Crosbie et al., 2013; Burton et al., 2018) 

Data Access & Collaboration

To access data from Spit for Science 1, contact Christie Burton. Data will soon be available through The Hospital for Sick Children Healthy Kids Biobank. Spit for Science samples are screened for medical and psychiatric conditions and have been used several times as healthy controls for genetic analyses.

Spit for Science Mobile App – Privacy Policy

Publications from
Spit for Science

Dissanayake, A., Dupuis, A., Burton, C., Soreni, N, Peters, P, Gajaria, A, Arnold, P, Schachar, R.J., Crosbie, J,. (2024). Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Youth Mental Health Traits and Diagnoses within a Community-based Sample. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. March 1. Online ahead of print. View article 

Dissanayake, A., Dupuis, A., Crosbie, J., Burton, C., Schachar, R.J., Levy, T. (2024) Is irritability multidimensional: Psychometrics of The Irritability and Dysregulation of Emotion Scale (TIDES-13). European Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Jan 16. Online ahead of print. View pre-print

Rizeq, J, Burton, C, Arnold, P., & Crosbie, J. (In press). The role of functional impairment in the interplay of seven domains of childhood and adolescent psychopathology: a network approach. Journal of Psychopathology and Clinical Science. View article

Arnatkeviciute, A ,  Lemire, M, Morrison, C, Mooney, M, Ryabinin, P, Roslin, Nikolas, NM, Coxon, J,  Tiego, J, Hawi, Z, Fornito, A, Henrik, W, , Martinot, J, Martinot, MP, Artiges, E, Garavan, H,  Nigg, J, Friedman, N, Burton, C, Schachar, R, Crosbie, J, Bellgrove, M. (2023). Trans-ancestry meta-analysis of genome wide association studies of inhibitory controlMolecular Psychiatry. July 7 Online ahead of print. View article 

Zarrei, M, Burton, C, Engchuan, W, Higginbotham, E, Wei, J, Shaikh, S Roslin, N, … Crosbie, J, Schachar, R, Scherer, SW (2023).  Gene copy number variation in pediatric mental illness in the population. Human Molecular Genetics. 32(15): 2411-2421. View article 

Nakua H, Hawco C, Forde NJ, Joseph M, Grillet M, Johnson D, Jacobs GR, Hill S, Voineskos A, Wheeler AL, Lai MC, Szatmari P, Georgiades S, Nicolson R, Schachar R, Crosbie J, Anagnostou E, Lerch JP, Arnold PD, Ameis SH. (2023). Systematic comparisons of different quality control approaches applied to three large pediatric neuroimaging datasets. Neuroimage. 274:120119. View article. 

Schachar, R.J., Dupuis, A., Arnold, P.D., Anagnostou, E., Kelley, E., Georgiades, S., Nicholson, R. Burton, C.L., & Crosbie, J. (2023). Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Shared or unique neurocognitive impairments? Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology.  Jan;51(1):17-31. View article.   

Lambe, L., Burton, CL.,Schachar, RJ., Hanna, G., Anagnostou E., Kelley, E Nicolson, Arnold, PD., Crosbie J, (2022). Clinical validation of the parent-report Toronto Obsessive–Compulsive Scale (TOCS): A pediatric open-source rating scale. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry Advances, 1(4), e12056. View article 

Schachar, R.J., Dupuis, A., Anagnostou, E., Georgiades, S., Soreni, N., Arnold, P.D., Burton, C.L., Crosbie, J. (2022). Obsessive-compulsive disorder in children and youth: neurocognitive function in clinic and community samples. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 63(8): 881-889. View article

Strom, N. I., Smit, D. J. A., Silzer, T., Iyegbe, C., Burton, C. L., Pool, R., Lemire, M., Crowley, J. J., Hottenga, J.-J., Ivanov, V. Z., Larsson, H., Lichtenstein, P., Magnusson, P., Rück, C., Schachar, R. J., Wu, H. M., Meier, S. M., Crosbie, J., Arnold, P. D., … Cath, D. (2022). Meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies of hoarding symptoms in 27,537 individuals. Translational Psychiatry, 12(1), 479. View article 

Dupuis, A., Mudiyanselage, P, Burton, C.L., Arnold, P.D., Crosbie, J., Schachar, R. (2022). Hyperfocus or Flow? Attentional strengths in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Frontiers in Psychiatry. Sept 16:13:886692. View article 

Burton, CL., Lemire, M., Xiao, B., Corfield, E., …. Schachar, RJ., Crosbie, J., Arnold, PD. (2021). Genome-wide association study of pediatric obsessive-compulsive traits: shared genetic risk between traits and disorders. Translational Psychiatry, 11(1): 91. View article 

Bralten J, Widomska J, Witte W, … Arnold P, Lemire M, Burton CL, Franke B, Poelmans G. (2020). Shared genetic etiology between obsessive-compulsive disorder, obsessive-compulsive symptoms in the population, and insulin signaling. Translational Psychiatry. 10(1):121. View article 

Sinopoli VM, Erdman L, Burton CL, Park LS, Dupuis A, Shan J, Goodale T, Shaheen SM, Crosbie J, Schachar RJ, Arnold PD. (2020).  Serotonin system genes and hoarding with and without other obsessive-compulsive traits in a population-based, pediatric sample: A genetic association study.  Depression and Anxiety.  Aug;37(8):760-770. View article

Goodman SJ, Burton CL, … Arnold PD, Crosbie J, Schachar R, Weksberg R. (2020). Obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: distinct associations with DNA methylation and genetic variation. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 12(1):23. View article 

Sinopoli,V., Erdman, L., Burton, C.L., Park, L.S., Dupuis, A., Shan, J., Shaheen, S-M, Crosbie, J., Schachar, R., Arnold, P. (2019).  Serotonin System Genes and Obsessive-Compulsive Trait Dimensions in a Population-Based, Pediatric Sample: A Genetic Association Study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Dec; 60(12):1289-1299. View article

Burton, CL., Wright, L., Shan, J., Xiao, B., Dupuis, A., Goodale, T., Shaheen, S-M, Corfield, E.C., Arnold. P.D., Schachar, R.J., & Crosbie, J. (2019).  SWAN Scale for ADHD Trait-Based Genetic Research: A Validity and Polygenic Risk Study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 60(9): 988-997. View article

Dupuis, A., Indralingam, M., Chevrier, A., Crosbie, J., Arnold, P., Burton, C. L., & Schachar, R. (2019). Response Time Adjustment in the Stop Signal Task: Development in Children and Adolescents. Child Development, 90(2), e263–e272. View article

Burton, C. L., Park, L. S., Corfield, E. C., Forget-Dubois, N., Dupuis, A., Sinopoli, V. M., … Crosbie, J., … & Schachar, R. J. (2018). Heritability of obsessive-compulsive trait dimensions in youth from the general population. Translational psychiatry, 8(1), 191. View article. 

van der Plas E., Dupuis A., Arnold P., Crosbie J., Schachar R. (2016). Association of Autism Spectrum Disorder with Obsessive-Compulsive and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Traits and Response Inhibition in a Community Sample. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 46(9), 3115-3125.  View article. 

Panjwani N., Wilson M. D., Addis L., Crosbie J., Wirrell E., Auvin S., Caraballo R. H., Kinali M., McCormick D., Oren C., Taylor J., Trounce J., Clarke T., Akman C.I., Kugler S.L., Mandelbaum D. E., McGoldrick P., Wolf S. M., Arnold P., Schachar R., Pal D. K., & Strug L. J. (2016). A microRNA-328 binding site in PAX6 is associated with centrotemporal spikes of rolandic epilepsy. Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, 2;3(7):512-22. View article 

Park, L. S., Burton, C. L., Dupuis, A., Shan, J., Storch, E. A., Crosbie, J., Schachar R., & Arnold, P. D. (2016). The Toronto Obsessive-Compulsive Scale: Psychometrics of a dimensional measure of obsessive-compulsive traits. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 55(4), 310-318. View article. 

Burton, C. L., Crosbie, J., Dupuis, A., Mathews, C. A., Soreni, N., Schachar, R., & Arnold, P. D. (2016). Clinical correlates of hoarding with and without comorbid obsessive-compulsive symptoms in a community pediatric sample. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 55(2), 114-121. View article. 

Crosbie, J., Arnold, P., Paterson, A., Swanson, J., Dupuis, A., Li, X., Shan, J., Goodale, T., Tam, C., Strug, L. J., & Schachar, R. J. (2013). Response Inhibition and ADHD Traits: Correlates and Heritability in a Community Sample. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 41(3), 497–507.View article.