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Adolescent Neurocognitive Development, Self-Regulation, and School-Based Drug Use Prevention

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Abstract

Adolescence is marked by several key development-related changes, including neurocognitive changes. Cognitive abilities associated with self-regulation are not fully developed until late adolescence or early adulthood whereas tendencies to take risks and seek thrilling and novel experience seem to increase significantly throughout this phase, resulting in a discrepancy between increased susceptibility to poor regulation and lower ability to exercise self-control. Increased vulnerability to drug use initiation, maintenance, and dependence during adolescence may be explained based on this imbalance in the self-regulation system. In this paper, we highlight the relevance of schools as a setting for delivering adolescent drug use prevention programs that are based on recent findings from neuroscience concerning adolescent brain development. We discuss evidence from school-based as well as laboratory research that suggests that suitable training may improve adolescents’ executive brain functions that underlie self-regulation abilities and, as a result, help prevent drug use and abuse. We note that considerable further research is needed in order (1) to determine that self-regulation training has effects at the neurocognitive level and (2) to effectively incorporate self-regulation training based on neuropsychological models into school-based programming.

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Acknowledgments

This paper was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (#sDA13814, DA016090, DA020138, and P50 DA16094).

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Correspondence to Pallav Pokhrel.

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Pokhrel, P., Herzog, T.A., Black, D.S. et al. Adolescent Neurocognitive Development, Self-Regulation, and School-Based Drug Use Prevention. Prev Sci 14, 218–228 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-012-0345-7

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