A recent study determined that some teens have dissimilar brain network activity that makes them more likely to try drugs and alcohol. IMAGEN conducted the study on 1,896 14-year-olds, examining their abilities to perform a repetitive task and then stop on command. Some individuals were able to stop more readily than others. Scientists found six new networks associated with impulsivity and inhibitory control that were not previously known and are not associated with ADHD (Science Daily, 2012). These neural networks were in the orbitofrontal cortex, located behind the eyes (Live Science Staff, 2012). Those who could not stop as quickly were found to have six distinct networks that are related to impulsivity and less inhibitory control (Science Daily, 2012). The teens with less active orbitofrontal cortex (more impulsivity and less inhibitory control) are more likely to say yes when offered drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes.
Scientists believe that this finding is indicative of an innate, underlying preexisting condition prior to initial drug usage, not a long-lasting effect of early drug-use or environmental factors. Hugh Garavan told Science Daily that, “The differences in these networks seem to precede drug use” (Science Daily, 2012).
The IMAGEN study is unique in several ways. First, it is the largest brain imaging study that has been done. The magnitude allowed scientists to better identify the new neural networks and to rule out their connections with ADHD. Additionally, it is examining the preexisting nature of the brain that may show the predictive factors leading to drug use. Many studies show the impact of teen drug-use or long-term use, but few examine the underlying neurobiological predictive factors. Scientists will continue to collect data regarding the teens in the study to draw further conclusions about their original brain mapping. The goal of the IMAGEN study was to examine risk-taking behavior as it is responsible for so many preventable tragedies and health issues (Science Daily, 2012)from addiction to drunk driving to many a Darwin Award.
Don Wilkins commented about the story, “Is there a way to stimulate the orbitofrontal cortex – perhaps with the insertion of electrodes? If so could that prevent dangerous addictive behaviors?…In the case of current addicts I would say we have a legal right to do everything morally possible to stop the addict’s misbehavior. The important question revolves around your definition of moral. What should we be allowed to do to stop addiction?” (Parker, 2012). First of all, I think it is important to direct Don to Al-Anon (just a guess). Next, the orbitofrontal cortex is shown to have a correlation with trying drugs, not addiction. If there is a full blown addiction, do you think this is going to have an effect? Why don’t you try an experiment on mice before you try on full blown addicts? Oh, but what the hell? Just go down to skid row in Los Angeles and pick up a few dozen junkies (don’t worry their families will just think they died, not think they were abducted), no big deal. They’re just addicts, not real people.
The implications for the study are fascinating. As an addict and alcoholic, I made the choice quite some time ago to just accept the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous point blank without hesitancy, because I realized I was not in a position to be arguing. Because of this decision, I have accepted for some time now that I am physically and mentally different as an alcoholic than my fellow man. I love hearing how modern day advanced technologies are able to back up these assertions from so many years ago.
Live Science Staff. (2012, April 29). Teen Drug Abuse Linked to ‘Impulsive’ Brain. Retrieved 2012, from Live Science: http://www.livescience.com/19962-teen-drug-abuse-impulsive-brain.html
Parker, R. (2012, April 29). Weak Orbitofrontal Cortex Leads to Teen Drug Abuse. Retrieved 2012, from Future Pundit: http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/008603.html
Patricia J Conrod, R. W.-B. (2012). Adolescent impulsivity phenotypes characterized by distinct brain networks. Nature Neuroscience , 15, 920-925.
Science Daily. (2012, April 29). Huge Study Finds Brain Networks Connected to Teen Drug Abuse. Retrieved 2012, from Science Daily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120429152251.htm
Filed under: Addiction, Conditions and Disorders, Latest News · Tags: addict, Addiction, ADHD, Alcohol and Drugs, alcoholic, brain, drug use, impulsivity, less inhibitory control, orbitofrontal cortex