Authors: Lauren Pulling, Future Science Group
Research presented at SfN Neuroscience 2018 (3–7 November, San Diego, CA, USA) has demonstrated links between adolescent brain development, mental health and substance abuse. A collection of three studies were highlighted by the society as ones to watch in this field, covering childhood trauma, opioid receptor variants and the reward system, and their connections with mental health and the adolescent brain.
Sarita Silveira et al. present research indicating that childhood trauma impacts the development of critical brain networks during adolescence, elevating the risk for alcohol abuse. Employing a national dataset of brain scans from 396 individuals aged 12–22 years, all with varying severity of childhood trauma, researchers assessed how drinking behavior develops in adolescence and early youth, and how this behavior is affected by brain function and childhood trauma.
The strength of the connections between brain regions important for sustained cognitive control were used as brain function measures, and were derived from fMRI scans collected when participants were resting in the scanner. For each participant, brain scans were acquired at baseline and then again at 1-, 2- and 3-year follow-ups.