Teenagers with alcoholic parents more likely to have impulsive and addictive personalities
Adolescents with a family history of alcoholism were more likely to risk money in a game of Wheel of FortuneHoped findings will help develop prevention strategies
Teenagers with a family history of alcoholism are more likely to develop similar addictions because of the way their brains are wired, say scientists.
They found such adolescents exhibited more impulsive behaviour, a trait associated with alcohol abuse.
It is now hoped the findings will help develop more effective prevention strategies and treatment for different high-risk populations.
Scientists found adolescents with a positive family history of alcoholism (FHP) exhibited more impulsive behaviour
It is already known that environmental factors can put people at greater risk but the latest research suggests personality and behaviour also contribute to alcoholism.
Lead researcher Dr Bonnie Nagel, from Oregon Health and Science University said: 'While having a family history of
alcoholism may put one at greater risk for alcohol abuse, personality
and behavioural risk factors are also important to consider.
'The combination of genetic and
environmental factors is very different for everyone, so some
individuals may be at higher risk than others.'
During the small-scale study Dr Nagel monitored the brain activity of two groups of adolescents aged 13 to 15 while they performed a 'Wheel
Of Fortune' decision-making task.
Each of the 31 participants were faced with risky versus safe probabilities of winning different amounts of money.
One group had a positive family history of alcoholism (FHP) while the other did not.
Distinct differences emerged in the brain responses of the two sets of youngsters with the FHP group demonstrating weaker responses
during risky decision making in the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum
Both are important for high level day-to-day functioning,
including attention, working memory and inhibition.
Dr Nagel added: 'We believe that weaker activation of
these brain areas, known to be important for optimal decision making,
may confer vulnerability towards risky decisions with regards to future
alcohol use in adolescents already at risk for alcoholism.'
The findings are published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
Despite differences in brain activity causing FHP individuals to make poor decisions in regards to
alcohol use, the scientists noted that it could also lead to 'good decisions in many contexts.'
They also stressed that
having alcoholism in the family was just one of many factors that could
influence an individual's risk of developing an alcohol problem.
Further research is now needed to determine the factors contributing to alcohol dependence.