Nav: Home

Brain imaging may help identify teens at risk of increasing alcohol use

July 02, 2019

Teenagers with large amounts of grey matter in the brain at age 14 are more likely to increase their alcohol use over the next five years, according to a whole brain imaging study reported today in eLife.

The findings may help scientists understand what makes some teens more vulnerable to developing alcohol use disorders. They could also help identify teens who are at increased risk of excessive drinking and enable early interventions to curb alcohol use.

"Adolescence is a critically vulnerable time for the development of alcohol drinking habits that may lead to considerable consequences later in life, including alcohol addiction ," says lead author Simone Kuehn, Professor of Neural Plasticity at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, and Group Leader at the Center for Lifespan Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Germany. "During this period, teens undergo a critical period of brain development and adopt many new behaviours, making it an important time to intervene."

Previous studies have suggested that differences in certain parts of the brain in early adolescence may make some young people more vulnerable to developing addictions. Kuehn and her colleagues went a step further by using structural magnetic resonance imaging to look for differences throughout the entire brain that might predict increasing teen alcohol use over the next five years.

They looked at detailed brain images of 1,814 healthy 14-year-olds participating in the IMAGEN project, a large European study of adolescents, and compared that to the participants' self-reported drinking habits at ages 14, 16 or 17, and 19. They used computers to break the images into small 3D cubes called voxels and built models based on this data to predict changes in the teens' drinking behaviour over time.

The models revealed that teens with more grey matter in the caudate nucleus, the region of the brain involved with learning, and the left cerebellum, which is associated with thinking and movement, had a higher chance of increasing their drinking habits over time.

Similar brain differences in adolescents have been linked to the development of psychiatric disorders later in life, which reinforces the idea that structural differences in the brain may contribute to both psychiatric and substance use disorders. But the cause of these differences isn't yet clear. However, Kuehn notes that the amount of grey matter in the brain grows through childhood and then peaks during adolescence when unnecessary brain connections are pruned away.

"Our results may reflect a slowing down of this pruning activity or an overproduction of brain connections," Kuehn concludes. "Future research involving multiple neuroimaging techniques will be needed to help answer this question."
-end-
Reference

The paper 'Predicting development of adolescent drinking behaviour from whole brain structure at 14 years of age' can be freely accessed online at https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.44056. Contents, including text, figures and data, are free to reuse under a CC BY 4.0 license.

Media contact

Emily Packer, Senior Press Officer
eLife
e.packer@elifesciences.org
01223 855373

About eLife

eLife is a non-profit organisation inspired by research funders and led by scientists. Our mission is to help scientists accelerate discovery by operating a platform for research communication that encourages and recognises the most responsible behaviours in science. We publish important research in all areas of the life and biomedical sciences, including Neuroscience, which is selected and evaluated by working scientists and made freely available online without delay. eLife also invests in innovation through open-source tool development to accelerate research communication and discovery. Our work is guided by the communities we serve. eLife is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, the Wellcome Trust and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. Learn more at https://elifesciences.org/about.

To read the latest Neuroscience research published in eLife, visit https://elifesciences.org/subjects/neuroscience.

eLife

Related Alcohol Articles:

This is your brain on alcohol (video)
It's almost time to ring in 2017. And since most New Year's celebrations include alcohol, Reactions' latest episode explains the chemistry behind its effects -- drunkenness, frequent bathroom breaks and occasionally poor decision-making.
Heavy alcohol use changes adolescents' brain
Heavy alcohol use during adolescence alters the development of brain, according to a recent study from the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital.
Maryland's 2011 alcohol sales tax reduced alcohol sales, study suggests
Maryland's 2011 increase in the alcohol sales tax appears to have led to fewer purchases of beer, wine and liquor in the state, suggesting reduced alcohol use, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research indicates.
Alcohol related deaths are likely to increase after cuts in alcohol taxation
Alcohol related deaths are most likely set to increase in England as incomes outstrip rises in taxation, argue experts in The BMJ today.
Alcohol aromatherapy eases nausea in the ER
Nauseated patients in the emergency department who sniffed pads saturated with isopropyl alcohol were twice as likely to obtain relief from their symptoms as nauseated patients who sniffed pads saturated with saline solution, according to a study published online today in Annals of Emergency Medicine ('Isopropyl Alcohol Nasal Inhalation for Nausea in the Emergency Department: A Randomized Controlled Trial').
Alcohol ads linked to teen alcohol brand choices
Overall exposure to brand-specific alcohol advertising is a significant predictor of underage youth alcohol brand consumption, with youth ages 13 to 20 more than five times more likely to consume brands that advertise on national television and 36 percent more likely to consume brands that advertise in national magazines compared to brands that don't advertise in these media.
Should women consume alcohol during pregnancy?
In The BMJ this week, experts discuss the evidence and current guidelines on the controversial topic of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
The Lancet: Harmful alcohol use linked with increased risk of alcohol-related cancers and injury
A new study of alcohol use in countries of all income levels shows that current use increases the risk of alcohol-related cancers and injury, with no reduction in risk of mortality or cardiovascular disease overall.
Web interventions for alcohol misuse
A systematic evidence review published in Annals of Internal Medicine finds that low-intensity electronic interventions may slightly reduce alcohol consumption among adults and college students, but may be ineffective for reducing binge-drinking frequency and the negative social consequences associated with alcohol misuse.
Marijuana users substitute alcohol at 21
A recent study looked at marijuana and alcohol use in people between the ages of 18 and 24.

Related Alcohol Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...