Brain functions that lead to alcohol abuse in adolescents

Brain functions that lead to alcohol abuse in adolescents

A 2010 survey showed that by eighth grade, around 36 percent of teens in the U.S. used alcohol (alcohol abuse) at least once in their lifetime. This figure dramatically increased to 71 percent by the 12th grade (NIDA, 2011).

Recent research shows that the brain does not fully develop until an individual reaches mid-twenties (Winters & Arria, 2011). The area of the brain that is last to develop is the prefrontal cortex, which is in charge of judgment and decision-making. This presents a major reason for the common existence of risky behaviors and questionable judgments among teens.

Teens at risk for future alcohol abuse have been observed to have reduced connections in vital brain regions, greater impulsivity, higher sugar consumption, and lower levels of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid.

The Adolescent Development Study was presented last year at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

  • One of the abstracts connected reduced prefrontal cortex development prior to alcohol use for future alcohol use disorders
  • Another abstract showed a weaker connection between executive control in the prefrontal cortex and the insular cortex (involved in processing emotions and responding to drug cues in addicts) to be connected with stronger feelings of impulsivity, which in turn were associated with alcohol problems
  • The next abstract depicted teens who consume high amounts of added sugar to have a tendency to seek immediate rewards compared to their peers with lower sugar levels in their diets. Those with higher sugar intake also displayed greater activation in brain regions connected to impulsivity and emotional effect
  • Finally, preliminary findings of a fourth study illustrated that those with low levels of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) were also more susceptible to impulsivity, but had greater activation in brain regions responsible for attentiveness and executive function compared to those with high DHA. 

John VanMeter, director of the Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging, and associate professor of neurology at GUMC claimed, “If we know what is different, we may be able to develop strategies that can prevent the behavior.”

The Alcohol Addiction Helpline of California is committed to providing you or a loved one the best treatment plans to ascertain your best shot at recovery. Our representatives are fully aware of the complexities that accompany an alcohol addiction and attempt to ease your way through the journey to recovery in every way they can. For further queries, call us right away.

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