Neurophysiological maturation in adolescence – vulnerability and counteracting addiction to alcohol

Institute of Rural Health, Lublin, Poland
Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing, Warsaw, Poland
1. Institute of Rural Health, Lublin 2. Higher School of Humanities-Natural Sciences, Sandomierz, Poland
Ann Agric Environ Med 2017;24(1):19–25
Abstract The results of contemporary studies confirm the formation of two neural networks in the brain during the period of adolescence. The first is defined as emotional, located in the limbic system, develops earlier, quicker, and more intensively than the second one in the prefrontal cortex, called the judgement network, which fulfils the role of control and inhibition of emotional reactions. The domination of the emotional network in adolescence is manifested by hyperactivity of the limbic system, accompanied by intensified undertaking of courageous, reckless, risky, or even sometimes dangerous actions, so very characteristic in the maturation. The aim of the article is to present the state of the art in the field of latest achievements in experimental neurophysiology related to the maturation of the structural end functional processes in adolescents, and to alcohol vulnerability. Alcohol effect initiation starts in early adolescence, and therefore is connected with alcohol abuse and addiction in adulthood, which confirms the necessity for provision of an early prophylactic protection for juveniles, even before entering the phase of early adolescence. Some electrophysiological characteristics, such as low P3 amplitude of the Event-Related Potential (ERP) and Event-Related Oscillations (EROs), are manifested by their high risk offspring, and are considered to be biological markers (endophenotypes) of a predisposition to develop alcohol use disorders. Electroencephalographic oscillations induced within the range of the theta and delta waves (Event-Related Oscillation- ERO), considered as endophenotypes and markers of increased vulnerability for addiction, present three groups of genes and three types of neurotransmitters, with gamma aminobutyric acid, acetylcholine and glutamate as neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. A new research approach consisting in the application of electroencephalographic methods and techniques in developmental and genetic studies of the conditioning of varied vulnerability, and especially increased preferences for alcohol tasting and abuse in adolescence, provide unique possibilities for comprehensive and deepened studies which may contribute to the prevention of alcohol addiction, the genesis of which, to a great extent, is related with the effect of causative environmental and genetic factors during adolescent development.