Orbitofrontal cortex volume prospectively predicts cannabis and other substance use onset in adolescents
Researchers have recently unveiled that the volume of the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is able to predict future substance use in adolescents. Individuals were followed for 13 years after undergoing magnetic functional resonance imaging and surveyed for cannabis and alcohol use. Interestingly, the authors chose to utilize those who had used cannabis, but in limited quantities, as a control group instead of including them in their cannabis users group. Similarly, the alcohol only group of participants also included those who used cannabis multiple times within the past year. Nevertheless, the authors conclude that the size of the lateral OFC is able to predict drug use in adolescents although not without admitting the need for replication and validity.
This paper represents an important example of biased information within the medical community. Bias is inherent, there is no way around it. But, it is the duty of researchers to publish their findings while remaining as objective as possible, and to do so, transparently. The grouping decisions for the study groups here, and the choices the authors made regarding statistical analysis of this data are odd, considering their definitions and broad claims. This may be due to the views of the organization funding the research, or the bias of the research team members themselves, but the limitations of the study should be considered strongly. Even beyond the groupings, the fact that this research took place in a state where cannabis use is legal for recreational and medical use is a reason to consider other confounding variables. Scientists have an obligation to pursue the truth and not extrapolate their findings to fit a personal or professional agenda. Many articles cherry-pick statistics and extrapolate small findings of data, leaving readers and media outlets to polularize findings that do not represent a full picture. It falls on discerning readers to read mindfully and consider a study’s methodolgy and demographics, as carefully as possible.
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