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Teens Prone to Heavy Drinking Can Be Caught From Their Brain Activity

Update Date: Aug 08, 2012 06:09 AM EDT

Teenagers are turning to different kinds of addiction these days and it is very difficult for parents to keep a track of their habits. Heavy drinking is one of the earliest known addictions and a new research shows that heavy drinking affects teenagers' developing brains. 

The latest study also claims to predict teens at risk of becoming problem drinkers based on their brain mapping.  Heavy drinking included four or more drinks on an occasion for females and five or more drinks for males. 

The researchers looked at forty teenagers aged between 12 and 16, who had not started drinking yet. After following them for 3 years, the teenagers were scanned again using special MRI scans. And half of the teenagers had started drinking almost heavily during this period. The researchers found that the teenagers, who had showed less brain activity in certain areas during the initial scan, were more likely to take to heavy drinking in the next three years. 

Once the teens had started drinking, their brain activity looked like the heavy drinkers. Their brains showed more activity as they tried to perform memory tests, the press release stated.

"That's the opposite of what you'd expect, because their brains should be getting more efficient as they get older," said lead researcher Lindsay M. Squeglia, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Diego in the press release. 

The findings clearly state that heavy drinking affects teenagers' developing brain, and also brain activity patterns can predict likely heavy drinkers.

 "It's interesting because it suggests there might be some pre-existing vulnerability," Squeglia said. 

The study gives clues into the biological origins of children's problem drinking. Also, it reinforces the message that heavy drinking affects young people's brains. 

"You're learning to drive, you're getting ready for college. This is a really important time of your life for cognitive development," Squeglia said.

The study appears in the September issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

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