Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine suggest that the functioning of the brain changes in youngsters who use stimulant drugs, even if they take it only occasionally.
The researcher recruited a group of college students between 18 and 24 years of age and asked them to press a left button if an X appeared on the screen, a right button if an O was displayed or no button if all they heard was a tone. The researchers then measured that participants' reaction time and errors and measured their brain activity through a functional-MRI machine.
The researchers found that occasional users, defined as students who took stimulants an average of 12 to 15 times, displayed slightly faster reaction times which suggested a tendency towards impulsiveness and displayed greater number of errors when they heard the tone compared to the control group who had never taken stimulant drugs.
"We used to think that drug addicts just did not hold themselves back but this work suggests that the root of this is an impaired ability to anticipate a situation and to detect trends in when they need to stop", the researchers wrote in their report, published in the Journal of Neuroscience.