Substance Abuse

Volume of Lateral Orbitofrontal Cortex Predicts Drug Use

Orbitofrontal cortex volume prospectively predicts cannabis and other substance use onset in adolescents

In Summary:

 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. Interesting 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 is a perfect 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. The grouping and subsequent statistical analysis of this data mentioned in the featured article are rather odd considering their terminology and broad claims. This may be due to the views of the organization funding the research, or the bias of the research team, but the limitations of this study should have been a larger factor, such as the odd groupings and the fact that this research took place in a state where cannabis use is legal for recreational and medical use. Scientists have an obligation to pursue the truth and not extrapolate their findings to fit their personal agenda. A slew of articles out there suffer from cherry-picking statistics and the extrapolation of data; readers and media outlets who popularize findings should take care to nitpick the methodology and demographics of studies. 

The study is available for review or download here

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Benjamin Caplan, MDVolume of Lateral Orbitofrontal Cortex Predicts Drug Use
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