Neuroimaging methods for adolescent substance use disorder prevention science

Prev Sci. 2013 Jun;14(3):300-9. doi: 10.1007/s11121-012-0323-0.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods safely provide in vivo indicators of cerebral macrostructure, microstructure, and activation that can be examined in relation to substance use disorder (SUD) risks and effects. This article will provide an overview of MRI approaches, including volumetric measures, diffusion tensor imaging, and functional MRI, that have been applied to studies of adolescent neuromaturation in relationship to risk phenotypes and adolescent SUD. To illustrate these applications, examples of research findings will be presented. MRI indicators have demonstrated that neurobiological maturation continues throughout adolescence. MRI research has suggested that variations in neurobiological maturation may contribute to SUD risk, and that substance use adversely influences adolescent brain development. Directly measured neurobiological variables may be viable preventive intervention targets and outcome indicators. Further research is needed to provide definitive findings on neurodevelopmental immaturity as an SUD risk and to determine the directions such observations suggest for advancing prevention science.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*