Effects of reward sensitivity and regional brain volumes on substance use initiation in adolescence

Snežana Urošević, Paul Collins, Ryan Muetzel, Ann Schissel, Kelvin O. Lim, Monica Luciana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


This longitudinal study examines associations between baseline individual differences and developmental changes in reward [i.e. behavioral approach system (BAS)] sensitivity and relevant brain structures' volumes to prospective substance use initiation during adolescence. A community sample of adolescents ages 15-18 with no prior substance use was assessed for substance use initiation (i.e. initiation of regular alcohol use and/or any use of other substances) during a 2-year follow-up period and for alcohol use frequency in the last year of the follow-up. Longitudinal 'increases' in BAS sensitivity were associated with substance use initiation and increased alcohol use frequency during the follow-up. Moreover, adolescents with smaller left nucleus accumbens at baseline were more likely to initiate substance use during the follow-up period. This study provides support for the link between developmental increases in reward sensitivity and substance use initiation in adolescence. The study also emphasizes the potential importance of individual differences in volumes of subcortical regions and their structural development for substance use initiation during adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-113
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Data collection and analysis were supported by National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant R01 DA 017843 and National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism grant AA020033 to M.L. S.U.'s work on the manuscript was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grants T32 MH 017069 and K01 MH 093621. This work was also supported by BTRC grants awarded to the CMRR, P41 RR008079, P41 EB015894 and 1P30 NS076408, and the University of Minnesota's Supercomputing Institute and Center for Neurobehavioral Development.


  • Adolescence
  • Behavioral approach system (BAS)
  • Reward sensitivity
  • Substance use initiation

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