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A Primer on Alcohol and Adolescent Brain Development: Implications for Prevention

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Part of the Advances in Prevention Science book series (Adv. Prevention Science)

Abstract

Research conducted over the last few decades forced a paradigm shift in how we view human brain development. Far from being completed by the end of childhood, brain development enters a complex phase of gene- and experience-driven remodeling beginning early in the second decade of life and continuing into the third. These changes involve a shift in control over behavior from limbic regions generating emotions to frontal lobe structures regulating emotional expression, impulse control, complex social interactions, and future-focused decisions. Brain plasticity helps ensure that each individual is molded and shaped in preparation for adulthood in accordance with the contingencies of their unique environments. Considerable research suggests that alcohol can disrupt adolescent neurodevelopment, damage neuronal circuits, interfere with myelination, suppress neurogenesis, induce neuroinflammation, cause lingering deficits in memory and attention, and increase the risk of developing alcohol-use disorders. In this chapter, we explore the changes that unfold in the brain during the second decade of life and examine the potential impact of alcohol on brain development and behavior during adolescence and beyond.

Keywords

  • Adolescent brain development
  • Alcohol and the adolescent brain
  • Brain structures involved in emotional reactivity and risky behaviors
  • Sex differences in brain development

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White, A., Hingson, R. (2019). A Primer on Alcohol and Adolescent Brain Development: Implications for Prevention. In: Sloboda, Z., Petras, H., Robertson, E., Hingson, R. (eds) Prevention of Substance Use. Advances in Prevention Science. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-00627-3_1

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