A family history of alcoholism may affect teenagers’ decision-making, researchers at Oregon Health and Sciences University have found. They discovered these adolescents have a weaker brain response during risky decision-making compared with teens without such a family history.
The researchers studied 31 teens ages 13 to 15. Of these, 18 had a family history of alcoholism. All of the teens’ brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging, to examine responses during an activity that mimicked the TV show Wheel of Fortune. The game presented risky and safe probabilities of winning different sums of money.
In the teens with a family history of alcoholism, the researchers noted that two areas of the brain responded differently, UPI reports. These brain areas are important for executive functioning, which guide complex behavior through planning, decision-making and response control. This group of teens showed weaker brain responses during risky decision-making, compared with teens who did not have a family history of alcoholism.
The researchers conclude in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, “Atypical brain activity, in regions implicated in executive functioning could lead to reduced cognitive control, which may result in risky choices regarding alcohol use.”