Earlier adolescent substance use onset predicts stronger connectivity between reward and cognitive control brain networks

David G. Weissman, Roberta A. Schriber, Catherine Fassbender, Olivia Atherton, Cynthia Krafft, Richard W. Robins, Paul D. Hastings, Amanda E. Guyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background Early adolescent onset of substance use is a robust predictor of future substance use disorders. We examined the relation between age of substance use initiation and resting state functional connectivity (RSFC) of the core reward processing (nucleus accumbens; NAcc) to cognitive control (prefrontal cortex; PFC) brain networks. Method Adolescents in a longitudinal study of Mexican-origin youth reported their substance use annually from ages 10 to 16 years. At age 16, 69 adolescents participated in a resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging scan. Seed-based correlational analyses were conducted using regions of interest in bilateral NAcc. Results The earlier that adolescents initiated substance use, the stronger the connectivity between bilateral NAcc and right dorsolateral PFC, right dorsomedial PFC, right pre-supplementary motor area, right inferior parietal lobule, and left medial temporal gyrus. Discussion The regions that demonstrated significant positive linear relationships between the number of adolescent years using substances and connectivity with NAcc are nodes in the right frontoparietal network, which is central to cognitive control. The coupling of reward and cognitive control networks may be a mechanism through which earlier onset of substance use is related to brain function over time, a trajectory that may be implicated in subsequent substance use disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-129
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Adolescence
  • Cognitive regulation
  • fMRI
  • Resting state
  • Striatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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