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Researchers Investigate Substance Abuse and the Teen Brain

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Researchers from the University of Vermont have teamed up with international scientists to investigate patterns of brain activity that are characteristic of teens prone to alcohol and drug use.

Their findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, is the first in a series of anticipated research projects that may lead to more effective ways of discouraging adolescent substance abuse.

In the study, researchers looked at brain imaging data of more than 2,000 European 14-year-olds.  They discovered that in teens with a history of substance abuse, a certain neural network was more active and another was less active.  They found the same pattern in some teens with no history of drug use.  The follow-up study, which will look at the same subjects as 16-year-olds, will investigate whether youths who exhibit this pattern are more prone to trying alcohol or drugs.  The results may eventually allow us to identify high-risk teens before they develop a problem.

According to study author Robert Wheelen, “The hope is that in the future we’ll find genetic, biological and environmental effects” that will comprise a comprehensive understanding of impulsivity and how it might be controlled or subdued.

Source: Burlington Free PressUVM Researcher Goes Inside the Brains of Teenagers

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