Statistics show that more than half of the 16-year-olds in the U.S. have tried alcohol. Many of those teens will drink responsibly and continue to do so into their adult years. But others will struggle with periods of binge drinking in their teens that blossoms into full on alcohol addiction as they get older. But how can you tell which teens will have a problem and which teens won't?
A new study may shed some light on the issue. Using a combination of information on genetics, brain function, personality traits, and history, researchers claim to be able to predict which teens will be binge drinkers and which ones will not - with an accuracy of about 70 percent.
For the study, researchers took brain scans of about 700 14-year-olds from all over Europe. They also evaluated the teens' personality traits, life experiences, and genetics, as well as their drinking habits. Two years later, when the high schoolers hit 16, the researchers followed up.
The study's authors found that there were several factors that helped to predict a teen's drinking behavior. One big one was personality. Not surprisingly, teens who were considered thrill seekers tended to be binge drinkers.
But brain structure also played a pretty big role. Researchers found that binge drinkers had less gray matter volume in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. What this means is still unclear, but researchers do know that this particular area of the brain is used in decision-making and processing certain emotions.
What this all boils down to is that it might be possible to predict which teens will be reckless in their drinking behavior and which ones are more likely to be conscientious. This also means that researchers might be able to predict which teens may go on to have problems with alcohol down the road. And if researchers can predict this, they might be able to intervene before the problem becomes addiction.
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