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Directed by Marisa Silveri, Ph.D., the Neurodevelopmental Laboratory on Addictions and Mental Health (NLAHM) is working to characterize important milestones of brain development, using magnetic resonance imaging techniques, from early adolescence (around 10 years of age) through emerging adulthood (18-22 years), when the brain reaches neurobiological adulthood. Some features that emerge during adolescent neurodevelopment also are observed in individuals with addictions and some psychiatric conditions, including increased risk-taking and impulsive behaviors, suboptimal decision-making and cognitive capacity, and alterations in brain tissue volume, functional brain activation, and neurochemistry. Given that brain maturation occurs in a rapid fashion during adolescence, there is an increased vulnerability of the teen brain, particularly the frontal lobe, to early alcohol and drug use. To this end, the onset of alcohol and substance use is often associated with the onset and severity of co-morbid psychiatric conditions, including depression and anxiety disorders. Accordingly, the NLAMH is examining the effects of alcohol and drug use on brain structure, function and chemistry, clinical state and cognitive abilities. Thus, characterization of brain maturation and neurobiological effects of alcohol and drug use may help identify vulnerable brain circuitry that could serve as risk factors for the development of alcohol and substance abuse, as well as the manifestation of psychiatric illnesses, both during adolescence and into adulthood.

Click here to learn more about research and training opportunities at the NLAMH.