Brain scans come in several different forms and are usually ordered by physicians to look for abnormalities, such as brain tumors. However, a new study said they can also help identify children who are at increased risk of developing alcoholism later in life, according to the Medical Daily report.
The study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, was conducted by a team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego. They examined the brains of 40 healthy and well-functioning children, aged 12 to 16 years old, using special MRI scans. At the onset of the study, none of the participants were alcohol drinkers, but the researchers found that about half of the teenagers started to drink alcohol during the three-year study.
According to the researchers, children who displayed less activation in certain areas of their brains at the beginning of the study were the most vulnerable to become heavy alcohol drinkers in the next three years. But there’s also another surprising detail revealed by the research, that is, brain activity in heavy teenage drinkers showed increased activity as they tried to perform memory tests compared to teenage participants who had not started drinking.
Although the researchers are not suggesting that every teenager should start getting MRIs, they said that the latest findings demonstrate how heavy drinking can negatively affect teenagers’ developing brains, and that brain activity patterns in children can be helpful in determining kids who are more likely to become problem drinkers.