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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 7, 2010

UI study looks at alcoholism risk, adolescent brain development

Daniel O'Leary, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, has received a five-year, $2.6 million grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to study brain development in adolescents with genetic risk factors for alcoholism.

The researchers will use advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to investigate whether adolescents with inherited risk factors for developing alcohol problems differ from adolescents without risk factors in terms of brain structure and function.

Specifically, the researchers will investigate whether these two groups of adolescents have differing patterns of brain activity while performing tasks that result in a reward and during tasks that measure self-control.

The study also will compare the performance of adolescents in the two groups on a range of cognitive tasks that can measure alcohol use disorders; and will look at variables associated with conduct disorder symptoms, which are more frequent in adolescents with increased genetic risk for alcoholism.

O'Leary's team will collaborate with Samuel Kuperman, M.D., UI professor of psychiatry, John Kramer, Ph.D., UI associate research scientist, and other researchers from the long-running Collaborative Studies on Genetics in Alcoholism (COGA) project at the UI. COGA is a national, collaborative research effort aimed at identifying the specific genes underlying vulnerability to alcoholism. The project has received NIH funding since 1989.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Care Media Relations, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room W319 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

MEDIA CONTACT: Jennifer Brown, 319-356-7124,