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Friday, November 21, 2014

MRI's May Predict Future Alcohol Abuse

In the near future it may be possible to predict substance abuse through genetic testing; researchers are tirelessly working to find genetic markers they could indicate an increased likelihood of addiction. What’s more, new research suggests that conducting brain scans on preteens may give scientists the ability to detect changes in the brain, allowing them to predict future alcohol abuse, Medical Daily reports.

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine worked with neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center to study 135 preteen boys and girls who were an average of 12.6 years old. None of the participants had ever tried alcohol in their lives.

“What this study is attempting to do is identify the differences in the brains of adolescents who go on to misuse alcohol and other drugs. If we know what is different, we may be able to develop strategies that can prevent the behavior,” project director Dr. John VanMeter said.

The preteens underwent MRI scans to evaluate their brain connections, specifically focusing on the brain’s executive control network (ECN). The ECN is comprised of areas in the brain that process emotion, impulsivity and self-control, according to the article. The preteen’s parents were asked to fill out questionnaires about their children’s behavior and exposure to drugs or alcohol. The researchers then compared the MRI scans with the findings from the questionnaires.

“We know impaired functioning in the ECN is linked to an earlier age of drinking onset and higher frequency of drinking, but it was unclear whether this dysfunction occurred before drinking or was a consequence of alcohol use,” project researcher Tomas Clarke of Georgetown University Medical Center said in a news release. The findings indicated that children who were at high risk for alcohol abuse had significantly fewer connections in the ECN. “Our findings suggest reduced prefrontal cortex development predates alcohol use and may be related to future alcohol use disorders,” Clarke noted.

"Less connectivity predicted higher levels of impulsivity," said Benson Stevens, a research student at Georgetown University, in the release. "Importantly, these effects were observed before the onset of alcohol use. The reduced connectivity between these brain regions could be an important factor in adolescent alcohol use given that reduced inhibitory control has been found to be a factor in alcohol use disorders."

The research was presented this week at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting.

1 comment:

  1. Great Post, I love to read articles that are informative and actually have good content. Thank you for sharing your experiences and I look forward to reading more.


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