, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 398-413,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 19 Oct 2010

Adolescent Brain Development and the Risk for Alcohol and Other Drug Problems


Dynamic changes in neurochemistry, fiber architecture, and tissue composition occur in the adolescent brain. The course of these maturational processes is being charted with greater specificity, owing to advances in neuroimaging and indicate grey matter volume reductions and protracted development of white matter in regions known to support complex cognition and behavior. Though fronto-subcortical circuitry development is notable during adolescence, asynchronous maturation of prefrontal and limbic systems may render youth more vulnerable to risky behaviors such as substance use. Indeed, binge-pattern alcohol consumption and comorbid marijuana use are common among adolescents, and are associated with neural consequences. This review summarizes the unique characteristics of adolescent brain development, particularly aspects that predispose individuals to reward seeking and risky choices during this phase of life, and discusses the influence of substance use on neuromaturation. Together, findings in this arena underscore the importance of refined research and programming efforts in adolescent health and interventional needs.
Support for this review was made possible by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (R01 AA13419) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA021182, P20 DA024194, P20 DA027834, and F32 DA024476).