Drug Abuse Linked to Brain Networks Among Teens


A new study conducted by the researchers from the University of Vermont could shed light on the issue as to why teenagers behave differently towards substance abuse.

brain scanThe proponents of the study gathered 1,896 14-year-old participants, the largest sample so far for a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning procedure. The participants were given the task to press a button on a keyboard, but researchers would insert a signal at anytime for the duration of the test that commands the participants to stop the task. The brain’s reaction to the stop signal is used to measure a teen’s impulsive behavior.

Data gathered from the study were analyzed and the differences in the brain networks were noted to cause varying impulsive behaviors of the teens. Participants who were able to follow the cue to stop had certain brain networks “light up” on the fMRI scan.

University of Vermont post-doctoral researcher Robert Whelan said that a teen’s impulsive behavior dictates their susceptibility for drug and alcohol abuse and that there are differences as to how a teen’s brain react or “light up” as far as their impulsiveness is concerned.

It was also confirmed by Dr. Hugh Gravan, associate professor of psychiatry, that those whose brain networks function less on the impulse-regulating factor increase their risks for smoking and drugs and alcohol use.

The results of the study could be the answer to the question of whether brain changes occur before substance abuse happens or are caused by the unhealthy habits.

In a feature from CBS News, the team of scientists from the university emphasized the importance of studying brain networks to understand a teen’s risk for substance abuse. This could be a key to hopefully put a stop on meaningless deaths among the youth which are often linked to impulsive behaviors that are all preventable.

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