"Understanding adolescent motivation is critical for understanding why so many young people drink alcohol and engage in associated behaviors such as drinking and driving and sexual risk-taking. That understanding also will be critical for shaping prevention messages that deter such behaviors," said Ting-Kai Li, M.D., Director, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "With today's report, researchers in NIAAA's Laboratory of Clinical Studies provide an important part of the picture."
In the MRI study, James Bjork, Ph.D., and others in the laboratory of Daniel Hommer, M.D., scanned the brains of twelve adolescents aged 12 to 17 years and twelve young adults aged 22 to 28 years. While being scanned, the subjects participated in a game-like scenario risking monetary gain or loss. The participants responded to targets on a screen by pressing a button to win or avoid losing 20 cents, $1, or $5.
For both age groups, the researchers found that the anticipation of potential gain activated portions of the ventral striatum, right insula, dorsal thalamus, and dorsal midbrain, with the magnitude of ventral striatum activation sensitive to gain amount. In adolescents, however, the researchers found lower activation of the right ventral striatum centered in the nucleus accumbens, a region at the base of the brain shown by earlier research (
Contact: Ann Bradley
NIH/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism