Predicting Self Regulation Across Adolescence
A second line of work aims to make predictions about when an individual may be particularly susceptible to giving into tempting cues. Adolescents have been characterized as a vulnerable population due to their heightened sensitivity to rewards. Neurobiological models characterize adolescents’ hypersensitivity to rewards as a result of a developmental imbalance between a slower-to-develop prefrontal cortex and a faster-to-develop striatal system. Thus, this line of work focuses on identifying neural markers of self-regulation in adolescents. A first study ( Londerée et al., 2018, Londerée et al., in prep) examined how alternative tobacco marketing influences teen non-smokers using a multimodal approach involving fMRI, DTI, and eye-tracking. Adolescents’ neural and behavioral sensitivity to naturalistic flavored alternative tobacco ads were examined. Neural reward response is increased when tobacco is paired with appetitive flavors, even in non-smokers, due to this heightened sensitivity to reward cues in this population. Individuals that showed an increased attention towards ads subsequently reported a stronger willingness to try alternative tobacco. In addition, structural connectivity between regions involved in self-control (IFG) and reward (OFC) was associated with reduced reward reactivity to food cues. These findings suggest a neural mechanism for how marketing with appetitive cues can make inroads into adolescents’ attention and potentially lead to initiation of unhealthy behaviors.
A second ongoing study aims to elucidate the relationship between environment (stress, exposure to violence), past experience, and substance use initiation in adolescents. Adolescents are vulnerable to neural changes after exposure to violence. It is hypothesized that these changes can increase risk-taking, reward-seeking, and ultimately substance use initiation. This project contains multimodal measures, including a multi-substance cue-reactivity task, DTI, and resting state functional connectivity, to compare with blood samples measuring stress-induced inflammation (CRP) and substance use reports. This work aims use baseline as well as longitudinal neural changes to predict subsequent substance use and identify structural and functional neural mediators. Future studies in this line of work will attempt to apply these structural, functional and behavioral markers to other populations and other types of tempting cues.