Cognitive, Emotion Control, and Motor Performance of Adolescents in the NCANDA Study: Contributions From Alcohol Consumption, Age, Sex, Ethnicity, and Family History of Addiction

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Abstract

Objective: To investigate development of cognitive and motor functions in healthy adolescents and to explore whether hazardous drinking affects the normal developmental course of those functions. Method: Participants were 831 adolescents recruited across 5 United States sites of the National Consortium on Alcohol and NeuroDevelopment in Adolescence 692 met criteria for no/low alcohol exposure, and 139 exceeded drinking thresholds. Cross-sectional, baseline data were collected with computerized and traditional neuropsychological tests assessing 8 functional domains expressed as composite scores. General additive modeling evaluated factors potentially modulating performance (age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and pubertal developmental stage). Results: Older no/low-drinking participants achieved better scores than younger ones on 5 accuracy composites (general ability, abstraction, attention, emotion, and balance). Speeded responses for attention, motor speed, and general ability were sensitive to age and pubertal development. The exceeds-threshold group (accounting for age, sex, and other demographic factors) performed significantly below the no/low-drinking group on balance accuracy and on general ability, attention, episodic memory, emotion, and motor speed scores and showed evidence for faster speed at the expense of accuracy. Delay Discounting performance was consistent with poor impulse control in the younger no/low drinkers and in exceeds-threshold drinkers regardless of age. Conclusions: Higher achievement with older age and pubertal stage in general ability, abstraction, attention, emotion, and balance suggests continued functional development through adolescence, possibly supported by concurrently maturing frontal, limbic, and cerebellar brain systems. Determination of whether low scores by the exceeds-threshold group resulted from drinking or from other preexisting factors requires longitudinal study.

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