Researchers at the University of Iowa are looking for teenagers whose parents have had past problems with alcohol to participate in a study on brain development. Psychiatry professor Dr. Daniel O’Leary is trying to determine why children of alcoholics are at a higher risk of becoming alcoholics themselves.

O’Leary and others at the U-I have studied alcohol abusers for more than two decades, but they’ve had little success in identifying specific genes that lead to alcoholism. O’Leary is hoping brain imaging technology will provide some clues. “I submitted a grant to look at the structure of the brain using an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and also the function of the brain using something called functional MRI, which lets you see the parts of the brain that have the highest blood flow,” O’Leary explained.

The testing should help researchers determine whether teens with inherited risk factors for developing alcohol problems differ from teens without risk factors in terms of brain and cognitive development. “So, in a nut shell, we’re looking at personality measures of impulsivity and reward processing in kids who are at genetic risk for alcoholism and trying to understand what it is about their brains that give them the liability to become alcohol abusers,” O’Leary said.

The U-I researchers are looking for adolescents between the ages 13 and 18 who have at least one parent with an alcohol use problem. Participants will be paid and will need to make up to two visits to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics over a one to two week period.

For more information: email [email protected] or call 319-353-8520