Alcohol use and brain morphology in adolescence: A longitudinal study in three different cohorts

Hanan El Marroun*, E.T. (Eduard) Klapwijk, Martijn Koevoets, Rachel M. Brouwer, S. (Sabine) Peters, Dennis van't Ent, Dorret I. Boomsma, Ryan L. Muetzel, Eveline A. Crone, Hilleke E. Hulshoff Pol, Ingmar H.A. Franken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Alcohol consumption is commonly initiated during adolescence, but the effects on human brain development remain unknown. In this multisite study, we investigated the longitudinal associations of adolescent alcohol use and brain morphology. Three longitudinal cohorts in the Netherlands (BrainScale n = 200, BrainTime n = 239 and a subsample of the Generation R study n = 318) of typically developing participants aged between 8 and 29 years were included. Adolescent alcohol use was self-reported. Longitudinal neuroimaging data were collected for at least two time points. Processing pipelines and statistical analyses were harmonized across cohorts. Main outcomes were global and regional brain volumes, which were a priori selected. Linear mixed effect models were used to test main effects of alcohol use and interaction effects of alcohol use with age in each cohort separately. Alcohol use was associated with adolescent's brain morphology showing accelerated decrease in grey matter volumes, in particular in the frontal and cingulate cortex volumes, and decelerated increase in white matter volumes. No dose–response association was observed. The findings were most prominent and consistent in the older cohorts (BrainScale and BrainTime). In summary, this longitudinal study demonstrated differences in neurodevelopmental trajectories of grey and white matter volume in adolescents who consume alcohol compared with non-users. These findings highlight the importance to further understand underlying neurobiological mechanisms when adolescents initiate alcohol consumption. Therefore, further studies need to determine to what extent this reflects the causal nature of this association, as this longitudinal observational study does not allow for causal inference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6012-6026
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2021


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