Scientists Found Indicators To Predict Teenagers Who Binge Drink

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In Photo: Ready-to-drink alcohol cans at a supermarket in Tokyo June 29, 2014 Reuters

Indicators that can help predict if a teenager is into binge drinking have been found by scientists. A group of international researchers is conducting an on-going adolescent brain imaging study.

The study: A glimpse

The study has found about 40 variables that can help predict if a teenager has chances of becoming a binge drinker. The predictions are said to be 70 per cent accurate.

Around 2,400 volunteers across eight European locations were assessed with blood tests, cognitive task performance analyses, IQ tests and personality tests. The study is called IMAGEN, a 'gold standard' model for predicting teenage behaviour, wherein the participants joined when they were just at the age of 14. 

The journal, Nature, has the study published in it which comfirms that some of the indicators found during the course of the study does help in predicting binge-drinking in adolescents.

Goals and findings of the study: Quoted by professors

Principle investigator of the study, professor of biological psychiatry and head of the section at the Social, Genetic and Development Prychiatry Centre, London, Gunter Schumann: We aimed to develop a 'gold standard' model for predicting teenage behavior, which can be used as a benchmark for the development of simpler, widely applicable prediction models. This work will inform the development of specific early interventions in carriers of the risk profile to reduce the incidence of adolescent substance abuse. We now propose to extend analysis of the IMAGEN data in order to investigate the development of substance use patterns in the context of moderating environmental factors, such as exposure to nicotine or drugs as well as psychosocial stress.

Associate professor of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont, Hugh Gravan: Some of the predictors include family history of drug use, stressful events, personality, sensation-seeking traits, lack of conscientiousness, having a drink at age 14, and bigger brains. During adolescence, there's refining and sculpting of the brain, and most of the grey matter-the neurons and the connections between them, are getting smaller and the white matter is getting larger, and that kids with more immature brains-those that are still larger-are more likely to drink.

Postdoctoral fellow in Psychiatry from University College Dublin, Dr Robert Whelan: One of the goals of the study was to develop a model to better understand the relative roles of brain structure and function, personality, environmental influence and genetics in the development of adolescent abuse of alcohol and that the multidimensional risk profile of genes, brain function and environmental influences can help in the prediction of binge drinking at age 16 years.

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