Scientists at the Hamburg-Eppendorf University Hospital( UKE) have investigated why some people are prone to excessive drug use, while others are able to resist it. By measuring the brain activity of adolescents, the researchers were able to identify different characteristics that might promote the development of seeker diseases in adolescents, according to the UKE.
Various factors have already been investigated as a cause of drug addiction. The spectrum ranged from genetic predispositions to educational influences to general social aspects. In their current study, the researchers at the UKE, together with colleagues from the US, investigated possible influences of brain activity on the tendency to drug use. The results of their study were published by the researchers in the journal Nature Communications.
On the basis of the data from the European-wide sample IMAGEN the research team around Professor Dr. Christian Büchel, head of the Institute for Systemic Neurosciences at the UKE, looked for possible emergence features for juvenile seekers. The project of the IMAGEN sample was initiated by the EU in 2007 and continued in Germany with funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research( BMBF) within the framework of the AERIAL project. The research project is the first and the world's largest longitudinal study study, which focuses on the development of juveniles in the youth age, "reports the UKE.
Brain activity in 14- and 16-year-olds tested
The study has so far included 2,000 girls and boys aged 14 years from Great Britain, Ireland, France and Germany.250 young people are from Hamburg, where they are supervised by Prof. Büchel and colleagues. All of the participating young people were interviewed intensively with 14 and 16 years of age, were subjected to psychological tests and genetically examined, the researchers report. On the basis of photographs of functional nuclear magnetic resonance( fMRI), their brain activities were also recorded. This year, the third follow-up phase is to follow.
References to problematic drug use
Before the study began, according to the UKE it was already known that adolescents withproblematic drug consumption have a propensity for adventure. Therefore, the team around Prof. Büchel had analyzed the data of adolescents with whom the adventurous at the age of 14 was particularly marked. The evaluation of the measurement data of the brain activities provided possible characteristics "which could point to a problematic treatment of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis at the age of 16 years", according to the communication of the University Hospital.
New Approaches to Prevention
"Our results show that an under-average activability of the reward system in the brain and a lower function of the prefrontal control of the brain favor later problematic drug use," stresses Prof. Büchel. In addition, the data analysis showed that other brain clusters had a developing lag in the affected adolescents at the age of 14 years. In the opinion of the researchers, these findings could allow new approaches to prevention.
"Through our research, we have the opportunity to identify young people at an early age - at the age of 14 - who are particularly at risk of developing a problematic drug consumption at the age of 16," says Prof. Dr. Büchel.