Thursday 18 July 2019

Too much grey matter in teenage years may be at the root of drink problem in early adulthood

Research: Prof Simone Kühn
Research: Prof Simone Kühn
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Adolescents who have large amounts of grey matter in their brains around the age of 14 are likely to drink more in the next five years of their lives.

Research which looked at the brains of 1,814 teens - including young people from Ireland - said this grey matter may be partly at the root of their liking for alcohol.

Grey matter, which is responsible for carrying sensory information from the body, peaks during adolescence.

It is found in regions of the brain involved in emotions, hearing, memory, emotions, speech and decision.

Previous studies have suggested that differences in certain parts of the brain in early adolescence may make some young people more vulnerable to developing addictions.

Lead author Simone Kühn, Professor of Neural Plasticity at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, said the findings may help scientists understand what makes some teens more vulnerable to developing alcohol use disorders.

They could also help identify teens who are at increased risk of excessive drinking and enable early interventions to curb alcohol use, the findings in 'eLife' said.

"Adolescence is a critically vulnerable time for the development of drinking habits. Teens undergo a critical period of brain development and adopt many new behaviours, making it an important time to intervene," Prof Kühn said.

She and her colleagues used structural MRI scans to look for differences throughout the entire brain that might predict increasing teen alcohol use over the next five years.

They examined healthy teens taking part in the IMAGEN project, a large European study of adolescents, and compared that to the participants' self-reported drinking habits at ages 14, 16, 17 and 19.

Irish Independent

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