For their study, published in July in Nature, researchers took brain scans and analyzed the behaviors of 700 14-year-olds across Europe. In particular, they noted the teens’ personality traits, background, genetics, and drinking patterns.
They then followed up with the same kids two years later and found that many of the teens who showed a pattern of binging on alcohol had things in common, including exhibiting thrill-seeking or risk-taking behaviors, a family history of substance abuse, and one to two drinking events by age 14.
Brain scans also showed physiological differences. Teens who were more likely to binge drink had a lower volume of gray matter in the area of the brain responsible for decision-making and conversely had a larger brain overall, which is a sign that the brain is physically immature.
Ultimately, the researchers identified differences in genetics and brain structure, as well as around 40 environmental and behavioral factors that can help predict which teens are likely to binge drink with about 70% accuracy.
Do you think turning this information into an assessment tool would be of value? Should it be a standard assessment for all teens?