Annual Research Review: On the developmental neuropsychology of substance use disorders

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Annual Research Review: On the developmental neuropsychology of substance use disorders

Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57:3 (2016), pp 371–394. doi:10.1111/jcpp.1251

Patricia J Conrod and Kyriaki Nikolaou

Abstract

Background

Adolescence represents a period of development during which critical biological, as well as social and cognitive, changes occur that are necessary for the transition into adulthood. A number of researchers have suggested that the pattern of normative brain changes that occurs during this period not only predisposes adolescents to engage in risk behaviours, such as experimentation with drugs, but that they additionally make the adolescent brain more vulnerable to the direct pharmacological impact of substances of abuse. The neural circuits that we examine in this review involve cortico-basal-ganglia/limbic networks implicated in the processing of rewards, emotion regulation, and the control of behaviour, emotion and cognition.

Findings and Conclusions

We identify certain neurocognitive and personality/comorbidity-based risk factors for the onset of substance misuse during adolescence, and summarise the evidence suggesting that these risk factors may be further impacted by the direct effect of drugs on the underlying neural circuits implicated in substance misuse vulnerability.

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