Neuroscientists think they found a way to predict if an adolescent will abuse drugs when older. They believe it can be achieved by scanning the teen’s brain and measuring how “impulsive” they are and judging a reaction to money. The less responsive the teen is to money, the more likely they will try drugs for a thrill, leaving health officials with a question. How do you get someone in our society interested in something other than money or drugs?
After looking at MRI results from almost 150 fourteen-year-olds and their “novelty-seeking tendencies” (looking for things that aren’t boring), scientists concluded that an adolescent’s impulsiveness could determine whether they would begin using drugs by the age of 16. Researchers had the adolescents complete a test that measured their brain activity when offered a monetary reward. Results of that test indicated a measure of brain activity called “reward anticipation.” According to results of the research, teens who were “high novelty seekers” and whose brains had less of a response to the “anticipated reward” turned out to be more likely to use drugs when slightly older.
The connection between reduced brain activity and thrill-seeking via drug use is a breakthrough, although scientists admit they don’t quite yet know why the drug-seekers developed the reduced thrill when confronted with money. It could be genetic, environmental, or a combination. One dilemma is that the same tendencies that could lead to drug use are the ones that may also lead to things like scientific research or entrepreneurship, the very tendencies most-prized in our society.
“Novelty-seeking tendencies in teens may promote innovation as well as problematic impulsive behavior, including drug abuse,” the scientists wrote. In order to promote the next generation of business and political leaders ,designed interventions might include “more powerful but alternative rewarding activities,” Knutson stated. Aside from the treatment, there’s also the indicator of risk—and how the discovery of the indicator of future drug use will be applied.