Brain imaging of neural regions associated with inhibitory control could predict binge drinking among adolescents, according to study results published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
“This study suggests that [blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD)] response in portions of the [inferior frontal gyrus], insula and precentral gyrus during successful inhibitory control could prove valuable as a temporally specific risk marker for future frequent binge drinking behavior,” Kelly E. Courtney, of the department of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, and colleagues wrote. “Early identification of adolescents at risk for this pattern of alcohol use is of great importance given the potential for neural consequences associated with alcohol use during neurodevelopment.”
According to the researchers, previous longitudinal functional MRI studies of adolescents identified neural aberrations during inhibition as significant predictors of greater substance and alcohol use. They pointed to a study that found associations among adolescents aged 16 to 19 years during no-go correct rejection vs. go trials between greater left angular gyrus and less ventromedial prefrontal activation of BOLD — a type of MRI that detects changes in blood flow in the brain once neurons are activated.
In the present study, Courtney and colleagues analyzed data from 29 individuals aged 12 to 14 years who were enrolled in a larger ongoing longitudinal study. Over a 15-year follow-up period, the included participants had transitioned from minimal alcohol use to at least weekly binge drinking. Participants received a functional MRI including a go/no-go task around age 18, which was the mean age for onset of weekly binge drinking. The researchers used predicted time to transition to frequent binge drinking using whole-brain activation from the no-go correct rejection vs. no-go false alarm contrast, they noted.
They found that a correct no-go response was associated with BOLD activity in brain regions associated with inhibitory control. They also reported that the BOLD signal’s magnitude across a specific cluster of brain locations correlated with the time to transition to high-risk frequent drinking. Overall, adolescents with a smaller BOLD response during successful inhibitory control more quickly advanced to impulsive binge drinking than those with a larger response.
“The magnitude of this activation provides temporal information that may be used to inform and optimize timing of interventions aimed at preventing the escalation and transition to problematic drinking for youth who have already begun to engage in drinking behaviors,” the researchers wrote. – by Joe Gramigna
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.