Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A family history of alcoholism may make adolescent brains respond differently

17.01.2012
  • Adolescents with a family history of alcoholism (FHP) are at risk for developing alcohol use disorders.
  • A new study has compared the brain activity of FHP youth to peers with no family history of alcoholism.
  • Two areas of the brain – the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum – responded differently during risky decision-making in high-risk youth compared to their lower-risk peers.

Researchers know that adolescents with a family history of alcoholism (FHP) are at risk for developing alcohol use disorders. Some studies have shown that, compared to their peers, FHP adolescents have deficits in behavioral inhibition.

A study of the neural substrates of risk-taking in both FHP adolescents and their peers with a negative family history of alcoholism (FHN) has shown that FHP youth demonstrated atypical brain activity while completing the same task as the FHN youth.

Results will be published in the April 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

"We know that a familial history of alcoholism is a significant risk factor for future alcohol abuse," said Bonnie J. Nagel, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science University as well as corresponding author for the study. "We were interested in determining whether adolescents at heightened risk for alcohol use made more risky decisions during a laboratory task compared to their lower-risk peers. Additionally, we wanted to examine whether differences in brain responses when making risky decisions were present in these two groups. We wanted to investigate pre-morbid neural risk factors during decision making in FHP youth, as opposed to differences in brain response due to heavy alcohol use itself."

"This is the first study to examine the neural substrates of risk-taking in FHP adolescents who are substance naïve," added Megan Herting, a PhD candidate in behavioral neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science University. "A previous study looked at young adults who were drinkers, therefore, it is hard to say if the differences found were purely a pre-existing neural risk factor for alcohol use. Alcohol use may also differentially impact the brains of those with and without a family history of alcoholism. Thus, the current study is a very novel and important piece of work showing that the brain is doing something different during risky decision making in substance-naïve FHP adolescents."

Study authors recruited 31 youth – 18 FHP (12 males, 6 females) and 13 FHN (8 males, 5 females) – between 13 and 15 years of age from the local community. All of the youth had little to no alcohol involvement prior to their participation in the study. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to examine brain responses of the youth during a Wheel of Fortune (WOF) decision-making task, which presented risky versus safe probabilities of winning different amounts of money.

"While our study found that FHP adolescents did not perform significantly differently on the WOF task compared to the FHN adolescents," said Nagel, "we found two areas of the brain that responded differently. These areas were in the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum, both of which are important for higher-order day-to-day functioning, such as decision-making. In these brain regions, FHP adolescents showed weaker brain responses during risky decision-making compared to their FHN peers. We believe that weaker activation of these brain areas, known to be important for optimal decision-making, may confer vulnerability towards risky decisions with regards to future alcohol use in adolescents already at risk for alcoholism."

Herting noted that higher-order or executive functioning is also important for things like attention, working memory, and inhibition. "Therefore, differences in brain activity may impact the ability of FHP individuals to make good decisions in many contexts, and in particular may facilitate poor decision-making in regards to alcohol use," she said. "Taken together with other studies on FHP youth, these results suggest that atypical brain structure and function exist prior to any substance use, and may contribute to an increased vulnerability for alcoholism in these individuals."

Both Nagel and Herting believe these findings can help to develop better prevention programs based on familial risk factors. "These findings may suggest a neurobiological marker that helps to explain how family history of alcoholism confers risk," said Nagel. "Furthermore, our research may aid clinicians who work with high-risk youth to develop effective prevention strategies for these adolescents to promote healthy decision-making."

However, they both added, having a familial history of alcoholism is just one of many different factors involved in future alcohol abuse. "While having a family history of alcoholism may put one at greater risk for alcohol abuse, personality and behavioral risk factors are also important to consider," said Nagel. "The combination of genetic and environmental factors is very different for everyone, so some individuals may be at higher risk than others, and certainly there are genetic and environmental factors that can also protect against alcohol abuse. Future research will need to determine the relative influence of these traits on alcohol abuse risk to be able to design specific prevention strategies for different high-risk populations."

Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER) is the official journal of the Research Society on Alcoholism and the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism. The first co-author of the ACER paper, "Risky Decision-Making: An fMRI Study of Youth at High Risk for Alcoholism," was Anita Cservenka in the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science University. The study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the Portland Alcohol Research Center, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This release is supported by the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network at http://www.ATTCnetwork.org.

Bonnie J. Nagel | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ohsu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Innovative genetic tests for children with developmental disorders and epilepsy
11.07.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Oxygen loss in the coastal Baltic Sea is “unprecedentedly severe”
05.07.2018 | European Geosciences Union

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microscopic trampoline may help create networks of quantum computers

17.07.2018 | Information Technology

In borophene, boundaries are no barrier

17.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

The role of Sodium for the Enhancement of Solar Cells

17.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>