While adolescent alcohol consumption has been asserted to adversely alter brain development, research in human adolescents has not yet provided us with sufficient evidence to support or refute this position. Brain constituents actively developing during adolescence include the prefrontal cortex, limbic system areas, and white matter myelin. These areas serving cognitive, behavioral, and emotional regulation may be particularly vulnerable to adverse alcohol effects. Alternatively, deficits or developmental delays in these structures and their functions may underlie liability to accelerated alcohol use trajectories in adolescence. This review will describe a conceptual framework for considering these relationships and summarize the available studies on the relationships among risk characteristics, alcohol involvement and brain development during this period. The cross-sectional designs and small samples characterizing available studies hamper definitive conclusions. This article will describe some of the opportunities contemporary neuroimaging techniques offer for advancing understanding of adolescent neurodevelopment and alcohol involvement.