Study: Brain Abuse Detected

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Certain brain structures increase the risk of drug abuse

Can the abuse of drugs in adolescents be identified in the brain? In the course of a study, adolescents showed a higher risk of experimenting with drugs or alcohol because specific characteristics of their brains seem to make them more "impulsive". According to this, certain brain structures are associated with an increased susceptibility to drugs. US scientists have identified certain neural networks in teenagers' brains that are associated with increased affinity for drugs.

The international research team led by Robert Whelan and Hugh Garavan from the University of Vermont (USA) also used the neuronal brain patterns discovered to demonstrate a possible connection between impulsive behavior and the tendency to use drugs. It has long been suspected that impaired impulse regulation can cause increased affinity for drugs.

Neural networks cause impulsive behavior and promote drug use The scientists led by Robert Whelan and Hugh Garavan investigated the brain structures of 1,896 adolescents aged 14 as part of their study. The study is part of the “Imagen” analysis project, in which European scientists record and analyze the data of 2,000 young people from Ireland, France, England and Germany over the years. In addition to researchers from the USA, German scientists from Hamburg, Berlin, Heidelberg and Dresden were also involved in the current study. The study was funded by the European Union. As part of their research, the scientists found that certain neural networks can be associated with impaired impulse regulation as well as a tendency to use drugs. The researchers published the results of their study in the specialist journal "Nature Neuroscience". To determine the brain structures of the adolescents, Whelan and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to take images of the brains of the 14-year-olds during a series of experiments. For example, as part of the experiments, the teenagers should hold down a button for a certain period of time or stop pressing the button at the last second before the time runs out. Here the adolescents with impaired impulse regulation have more difficulties than the adolescents with good impulse control.

Impaired impulse regulation leads to increased susceptibility to drugs. As part of the study, the researchers also asked the adolescents about their previous drug experience and also took genetic factors into account. They found that adolescents with impulsive behavior or impaired impulse regulation were more likely to use drugs, tobacco and alcohol than others. In the affected adolescents, the researchers were able to determine on the fMRI images an underfunction of a "certain orbitofrontal cortical network". This reduced activity in the neural network of the orbitofrontal cortex makes adolescents both more impulsive and more adventurous about alcohol, cigarettes and illegal drugs, Whelan and colleagues write. The current results of the study also help to clarify the chicken-or-egg question as to whether certain brain patterns existed before or were caused by drug use, reports the University of Vermont.

Link between ADHD and increased affinity for drugs? The relationship between impaired impulse control and affinity for drugs has been proven in numerous studies. The link between Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD) and drug susceptibility was the focus of public interest, according to researchers from the University of Vermont. Because both ADHD and earlier drug use have been linked to poor impulse control. However, as part of their study, the scientists led by Robert Whelan and Hugh Garavan were able to prove that "these seemingly identical problems are regulated by different networks in the brain," reports the University of Vermont. This strengthens the idea that the risk of ADHD does not necessarily imply an increased risk of drug use.

Recognize the risk of drug use from neural networks? Overall, the researchers made a decisive contribution to understanding pulse regulation in the brain and the associated susceptibility to drugs. According to the scientists' hope, the current findings could also help to determine the susceptibility of adolescents to drugs at an early stage in the future. The main news, however, is that "impulsivity can be broken down and broken down into different brain regions," with "the functioning of one region related to ADHD symptoms, while the function of the other regions is related to drug use," explained Hugh Garavan. (fp)

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