A study conducted by Oregon Health & Science University found that non-drinking teenagers with FHP tend to show weaker brain responses when risky decisions are presented/made.

Family History of Alcoholism aka FHP is defined when a teen has at least one biological parent, and/or at least two second-degree family members (maternal or paternal) such as an aunt or grandparent, who has a history of alcohol abuse or dependence. The study—the purpose of which was too look at the risk-taking tendency of teens who had little to no personal experience with consumption of alcohol—included thirty-one participants aged thirteen to fifteen years from the Portland area. Eighteen of these participants had a history of family alcoholism (FHP) while the remaining thirteen did not (FHN: negative family history of alcoholism).

This differs from previous family studies which have focused on the likelihood of teens with FHP to increase the risks they take as they grow-up, all while waging their own constant struggle against alcoholism and dependency.

The participating teens were given a decision-making task that presented the “risky vs. safe” probabilities of winning different amounts of money. As they performed the tasks, they were being monitored by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Whether the teens were FHP or FHN, their responses all seemed pretty common and standard.

In other words, the initial findings were that kids will be kids.

Or will they?

Once researchers were able to study the imaging that came back, they found something. Two areas of the brains in the FHP teen responded differently during the tasks . . .

“These areas were in the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum, both of which are important for higher-order day-to-day functioning, such as decision-making. […] In these brain regions, FHP adolescents showed weaker brain responses during risky decision-making compared to their FHN peers.” ~Bonnie J. Nagel, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science University.

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