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      Why is adolescence a key period of alcohol initiation and who is prone to develop long-term problem use?: A review of current available data

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          Abstract

          Background

          Early adolescence is a key developmental period for the initiation of alcohol use, and consumption among adolescents is characterized by drinking in high quantities. At the same time, adolescence is characterized by rapid biological transformations including dramatic changes in the brain, particularly in the prefrontal cortex and the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system.

          Methods

          This article begins with an overview of the unique neural and behavioural characteristics of adolescent development that predispose these individuals to seek rewards and take risks such as initiation of drinking and high levels of alcohol intake. The authors then outline important factors associated with an increased risk for developing alcohol problems in later adolescence and young adulthood. Thereafter they address causality and the complex interplay of risk factors that lead to the development of alcohol use problems in late adolescence and young adults.

          Conclusions

          A few recommendations for the prevention of underage drinking are presented.

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          Most cited references 242

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          The adolescent brain and age-related behavioral manifestations.

          To successfully negotiate the developmental transition between youth and adulthood, adolescents must maneuver this often stressful period while acquiring skills necessary for independence. Certain behavioral features, including age-related increases in social behavior and risk-taking/novelty-seeking, are common among adolescents of diverse mammalian species and may aid in this process. Reduced positive incentive values from stimuli may lead adolescents to pursue new appetitive reinforcers through drug use and other risk-taking behaviors, with their relative insensitivity to drugs supporting comparatively greater per occasion use. Pubertal increases in gonadal hormones are a hallmark of adolescence, although there is little evidence for a simple association of these hormones with behavioral change during adolescence. Prominent developmental transformations are seen in prefrontal cortex and limbic brain regions of adolescents across a variety of species, alterations that include an apparent shift in the balance between mesocortical and mesolimbic dopamine systems. Developmental changes in these stressor-sensitive regions, which are critical for attributing incentive salience to drugs and other stimuli, likely contribute to the unique characteristics of adolescence.
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            The adolescent brain.

            Adolescence is a developmental period characterized by suboptimal decisions and actions that are associated with an increased incidence of unintentional injuries, violence, substance abuse, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. Traditional neurobiological and cognitive explanations for adolescent behavior have failed to account for the nonlinear changes in behavior observed during adolescence, relative to both childhood and adulthood. This review provides a biologically plausible model of the neural mechanisms underlying these nonlinear changes in behavior. We provide evidence from recent human brain imaging and animal studies that there is a heightened responsiveness to incentives and socioemotional contexts during this time, when impulse control is still relatively immature. These findings suggest differential development of bottom-up limbic systems, implicated in incentive and emotional processing, to top-down control systems during adolescence as compared to childhood and adulthood. This developmental pattern may be exacerbated in those adolescents prone to emotional reactivity, increasing the likelihood of poor outcomes.
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              Peer influence on risk taking, risk preference, and risky decision making in adolescence and adulthood: an experimental study.

              In this study, 306 individuals in 3 age groups--adolescents (13-16), youths (18-22), and adults (24 and older)--completed 2 questionnaire measures assessing risk preference and risky decision making, and 1 behavioral task measuring risk taking. Participants in each age group were randomly assigned to complete the measures either alone or with 2 same-aged peers. Analyses indicated that (a) risk taking and risky decision making decreased with age; (b) participants took more risks, focused more on the benefits than the costs of risky behavior, and made riskier decisions when in peer groups than alone; and (c) peer effects on risk taking and risky decision making were stronger among adolescents and youths than adults. These findings support the idea that adolescents are more inclined toward risky behavior and risky decision making than are adults and that peer influence plays an important role in explaining risky behavior during adolescence.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: PhD Student
                Role: Professor
                Role: Professor
                Role: Student
                Role: Doctor
                Journal
                Socioaffect Neurosci Psychol
                Socioaffect Neurosci Psychol
                SNP
                Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology
                Co-Action Publishing
                2000-9011
                11 December 2013
                2013
                : 3
                Affiliations
                Laboratory of Psychological Medicine and Addiction, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
                Author notes
                [* ] Salvatore Campanella, The Belgian Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS), CHU Brugmann, Department of Psychiatry, 4 Place Vangehuchten, 1020 Brussels, Belgium. Tel: +32 24773465. Email: salvatore.campanella@ 123456chu-brugmann.be
                Article
                21890
                10.3402/snp.v3i0.21890
                3960066
                © 2013 Géraldine Petit et al.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License, permitting all non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Brain and Addiction

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