Simone Kühne is a psychologist by training but works mostly in the field of cognitive neuroscience. Her research interests focus on neuroplasticity and how the brain can adapt to an ever changing world. At the same time she has been interested in understanding how human beings can exert self-control and inhibition to counteract impulses. This later interest has lead her to investigate habitual responses, addiction, and other mental disorders.
My plans for the fellowship period
My plan is to unravel the developmental trajectories of addiction-related problems and video-gaming habits from adolescence into adulthood. Adolescence is a critically vulnerable time for the development of risky habits that can have significant consequences, including the development of substance or behavioural addictions. To predict these developmental trajectories I will use a large dataset from the multi-centre EU project called IMAGEN. IMAGEN comprises brain imaging, genetic, and behavioural information of around 2000 adolescents and their parents from Germany, France, the UK and Ireland. Data acquired when the adolescents were aged 14 years will be used to predict the development of smoking, alcohol, drug, and gaming habits at the ages of 16 and 18 years. This will enable us to identify early brain functional and structural as well as behavioural and genetic risk factors of substance and behavioural addictions and related psychiatric disorders. It will also be possible for us to determine protective factors to inform future preventive strategies. Furthermore, this unique dataset allows us to associate these factors with data about parents’ substance use habits, including mothers’ substance use during pregnancy, their personality profiles, and parenting styles which will allow us to gain deeper insights into developmental trajectories of addiction.
How will my work change children’s and youth’s lives?
This project will provide new insights into the neural mechanisms that foster or hamper self-control in the transition from adolescence to early adulthood and identify behavioural risks for, and protective factors against, substance addiction and related psychiatric disorders. If we are successful, our work will help to detect markers at age 14 that predict problematic behaviour at ages 16 and/or 18 years. Ideally, the results will reveal a limited set of variables that suffice to predict future problematic developmental trajectories reliably. On the other hand, the identification of protective factors may guide early preventive interventions in the future.
The set of risk and protective factors that enable the early prediction of substance and behavioural abuse habits, will help youth’s on an individual basis to identify adolescents at risk of later substance addiction and hopefully guide them into existing prevention programs and to develop novel and better early-prevention programs.