Researchers may now be able to foresee the stress related drinking issues or risky sexual behavior that young adults may develop via brain activity.
Professor senior author Ahmad Hariri said that by knowing the biology that predicts risk, we hope to eventually change the biology-or at least meet that biology with other forces to stem the risk.
The research is part of the ongoing Duke Neurogenetics Study (DNS), which began in 2010.
Using non-invasive functional MRI imaging to measure the activity of two brain areas that help shape opposing behaviors crucial for survival: the reward-seeking ventral striatum and the threat-assessing amygdale, it was found that having both an overactive ventral striatum and an underactive amygdala was associated with problem drinking in response to stress.
The next step to examine both risky sex and problem drinking is to add a third brain region: the prefrontal cortex, which is the brain’s ultimate decision-maker. This part of the brain may help the researchers predict more accurately which individuals may engage in risky behaviors.
Developing brain-based predictors is important because individuals aren’t necessarily aware of their risks, Hariri said, nor are their doctors.
The results are published in Molecular Psychiatry.