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Study finds addictive teen behavior caused by differences in brain wiring

Juri Lolli, 20, (R) an Italian student from the Primo Levi Technical Institute of Vignola in the Modena Province, rolls a cigarette with tobacco and marijuana during a school trip.
Credit: Marco Di Lauro

A new study suggests that differences in brain wiring make some teenagers more likely to engage in addictive behavior, reported The Telegraph.

The findings, published Sunday in Nature Neuroscience, are based off brain scans of 1,896 14-year-olds -- a huge project the Toronto Sun described as "the largest imaging study of the human brain ever conducted." 

Researchers found that different networks of neurons are linked to drug use, shedding new light on a longstanding debate over whether certain impulsive brain patterns are created by drug use or pre-date substance use, said The Telegraph

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Study co-author Robert Whelan of the University of Vermont told the Toronto Sun that lower activity detected in the part of the brain tied to experimental behavior in adolescence makes some young people more likely to respond impulsively, explaining, that their "networks are not working as well."

In other words, when young people decide whether or not they will engage in experimental behavior, those with low-functioning networks are more likely to say, "Yeah, gimme, gimme, gimme!" another report author, University of Vermont psychiatry professor Hugh Garavan, told the Sun

The University of California at Los Angeles' addiction specialist Edith London, who did not take part in the research, told the Telegraph that the finding "substantially advances our understanding of the neural circuitry that governs inhibitory control in the adolescent brain."

The findings could help efforts to counter drug abuse. 

Researchers also found that brain networks linked to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and teen drug use are separate and not as related as has been thought, according to Telegraph

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