Neural activation during response inhibition is associated with adolescents' frequency of risky sex and substance use

Sarah W. Feldstein Ewing, Jon M. Houck, Angela D. Bryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Objective: Introduction: While many have identified the important role of the developing brain in youth risk behavior, few have examined the relationship between salient cognitive factors (response inhibition) and different types of real-world adolescent health risk behaviors such as substance use and risky sex, within the same sample of youth. Methods: We therefore sought to examine these relationships with 95 high-risk youth (ages 14-18; M age. =. 16.29. years). We examined blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) response to an fMRI-based cognitive task designed to assess response inhibition (Go/NoGo) and past month risk behavior (number of substance use days; number of unprotected sex days). Results: For this sample of youth, we found significant negative correlations between past month substance use and response inhibition within the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and right insula (uncorrected p. <. .001; extent threshold ≥. 10. voxels). In addition, in the same contrast, we found significant positive correlations between past month risky sex and activation within the right IFG and left middle occipital gyrus (uncorrected p. <. .001; extent threshold ≥. 10. voxels). Conclusions: These results suggest the particular relevance of these regions in this compelling, albeit slightly different, pattern of response for adolescent risky behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-87
Number of pages8
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - May 1 2015



  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol
  • Cannabis
  • Cognitive
  • FMRI
  • Sexual intercourse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this