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The Neuroeconomics of Behavioral Therapies for Adolescent Substance Abuse (Imaging)

This study has been completed.
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center Identifier:
First received: March 23, 2010
Last updated: August 18, 2014
Last verified: August 2014
This study will measure the brain activity of adolescent substance abusers while they make decisions about their preferences to receive smaller, immediate rewards versus larger delayed rewards. The investigators expect that patterns of brain activity while engaged in this decision making task will predict response to treatment among adolescent substance users. The investigators expect to use the results of this study to develop more effective treatments for adolescent substance abuse

Adolescent Substance Use

Study Type: Observational
Study Design: Observational Model: Family-Based
Time Perspective: Prospective
Official Title: The Neuroeconomics of Behavioral Therapies for Adolescent Substance Abuse

Further study details as provided by Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center:

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Marijuana and alcohol abstinence [ Time Frame: Assessed at end of treatment, and quarterly for one year after treatment ]

Enrollment: 51
Study Start Date: April 2010
Study Completion Date: May 2014
Primary Completion Date: May 2014 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
No intervention

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Detailed Description:

Little is known about the role of adolescent neurodevelopment in adolescent substance abuse treatment outcomes. The development and evaluation of adolescent substance abuse treatments rarely includes consideration of varying cognitive capacities and their neural representations as determinants of individual variation in treatment response. This proposed R21 project would address this gap by identifying associations among decision making, task-related neural processing, and treatment outcome among adolescents participating/have participated in two randomized clinical trials for adolescent substance abuse. Increasing our understanding of neural processes that underlie decision making in adolescent marijuana and alcohol users would inform the development of future intervention and prevention efforts.

This complementary project draws subjects from two studies investigating contingency-management (CM) based treatments "Behavioral Treatment of Adolescent Marijuana Abuse" (DA015186), and "Family Based Contingency Management for Adolescent Alcohol Abuse" (AA016917). Both trials compare a unique CM intervention that involves an abstinence-based reinforcement program to a standard, state of the art cognitive behavioral intervention. Analyses would be performed separately for the two samples, with hypotheses tested first using the Marijuana sample, and assessed for replication/specificity using the Alcohol sample. The proposed project would explore novel neurobiological predictors of response to CM interventions.

Adolescents recruited into the Marijuana Trial (n=69; 23 per treatment arm) and the Alcohol Trial (n=54; 27 per treatment arm) during the period of this R21 project would participate in a single neuroimaging session as soon after the intake session as possible, within 7 to 30 days. During the neuroimaging session, adolescents would make intertemporal choice decisions in a Delay Discounting task regarding gains of $100 and $1,000. Preliminary data from the Marijuana trial demonstrates significant association between performance on this behavioral delay discounting task and abstinence achieved during treatment over and above the significant effect of treatment condition. The investigators seek to understand the neural processes that underlie performance on this laboratory task, and the degree to which variation in these neural processes relates to and predicts adolescent substance abuse treatment outcomes. The conceptual framework for the proposed project is based on the neuroeconomics of addiction in general, and the competing neural systems hypothesis in particular (Bechara, 2005a; Bickel, et al., 2007; Daw, et al., 2005; Jentsch & Taylor, 1999). This behavioral choice hypothesis postulates a biased competition between an "impulsive" (or ''reflexive") neural system (including the striatum, amygdala, ventral pallidum, and related structures) and the "executive" (or "reflective") neural system (including the prefrontal cortex) in understanding patterns of suboptimal decision making among substance-dependent individuals. An overarching hypothesis is that differing responses to distinct treatment approaches (CM vs. CBT) are partially determined by the pattern of activation or functional connectivity within and across these competing neural systems. These project hypotheses would be tested by the following specific aims:

Primary Aims:

  • Determine the degree to which performance on a laboratory delay discounting task correlates with activity in impulsive and/or executive neural systems.
  • Determine the degree to which performance on a laboratory delay discounting task and neural processing predict adolescent substance abuse treatment outcome over and above the effects of treatment condition.

Secondary Aim:

  • Explore interactions between response to CM and delay discounting-related neural processing.

In summary, this proposed exploratory/developmental project would importantly contribute to the understanding of the role of neural processing in adolescent substance-abuse treatment processes and outcome. Specifically, this study has the potential to reveal relations among decision making, neural processing, and treatment outcomes, including the role of patterns of neural activation on response to contingency management among adolescent substance abusers. Results will have implications for future research on adolescent neurodevelopment and adolescent substance abuse treatment. The potential to use neuroscience findings to better understand and improve treatment outcomes in substance-abusing adolescents will have strong public health impact.


Ages Eligible for Study:   12 Years to 18 Years   (Child, Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes
Sampling Method:   Non-Probability Sample
Study Population
Adolescents recruited into the Marijuana Trial and the Alcohol Trial during the period of the R21 project would participate in a single neuroimaging session as soon after the intake session as possible.

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Participants must be 12 to 18 years old and have a parent/guardian who can participate.
  • Youth must meet either of the following inclusion criteria:

    1. Report using marijuana during the previous 30 days or provide a marijuana-positive urine test, plus meet criteria for Cannabis Abuse or Dependence OR
    2. Meet Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) criteria for Alcohol Abuse or dependence or have had one binge episode, specified by ≥5 drinks in one day, in the past 90 days and report alcohol use in the past 30 days.

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Contraindications to MRI including ferromagnetic implants or claustrophobia
  • Meeting DSM criteria for dependence on illicit drugs other than marijuana or alcohol (use/abuse of other drugs will not be excluded)
  • Exhibit active psychosis, have severe medical or psychiatric illness limiting participation
  • Are pregnant or breast-feeding.
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Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT01093898

United States, New Hampshire
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
Lebanon, New Hampshire, United States, 03756
Sponsors and Collaborators
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Principal Investigator: Catherine Stanger, Ph.D. Dartmouth College
  More Information

Publications automatically indexed to this study by Identifier (NCT Number):
Responsible Party: Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center Identifier: NCT01093898     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 36824
1R21DA029442-01 ( US NIH Grant/Contract Award Number )
Study First Received: March 23, 2010
Last Updated: August 18, 2014

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Substance-Related Disorders
Chemically-Induced Disorders
Mental Disorders processed this record on April 25, 2017