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Psychiatry Res. 2012 Feb 28;201(2):128-35. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2011.08.004. Epub 2012 Mar 3.

Parental substance abuse and function of the motivation and behavioral inhibition systems in drug-naïve youth.

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Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, United States.


It is hypothesized that the development of substance abuse (SA) may be due to imbalance in functions of the motivation-reward and behavioral inhibition systems in the brain. This speaks to the search for biological risk factors for SA in drug-naïve children who also exhibit motivational and inhibitory control deficits; however, this type of research is currently lacking. The objective of this study was to establish a neurobiological basis for addiction vulnerability using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in drug-naïve youth with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We hypothesized that children with ADHD alone would show higher activity in regions of the motivation-reward and behavioral inhibition systems than children with ADHD and a parental history of SA. Toward this goal we scanned 20 drug-naïve children with ADHD ages 8-13 while performing an event-related reward task. High (N=10) and low (N=10) risk subjects were identified, based on parental history of SA. The effects of anticipation, conflict, and reward were assessed with appropriate linear contrasts, and between-group differences were assessed using statistical parametric mapping. The two groups did not differ on behavioral measures of the task. The fMRI results show heightened activation in the brain motivational-reward system and reduced activation of the inhibitory control system in high-risk compared to low-risk children. These results suggest that a functional mismatch between these two systems may represent one possible biological underpinning of SA risk, which is conferred by a parental history of addiction.

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