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Linking Striatal Dopamine and Decision-Making to Adolescent Risk-Taking

Tervo-Clemmens, Brenden (2021) Linking Striatal Dopamine and Decision-Making to Adolescent Risk-Taking. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Adolescence is characterized by a peak in risk-taking behaviors that increases the likelihood of problematic substance use, sexually transmitted diseases, and fatal accidents. Prominent neurodevelopmental theories suggest these behaviors are driven by the maturation of the striatal dopamine (DA) system and its modulation of prefrontal-striatal circuitry. To date, research in this area has been limited, both by limitations in assessing DA systems in vivo in human adolescents and an incomplete understanding of the intermediate cognitive and affective processes linking striatal DA and risk-taking. This dissertation built upon a first-of-its kind longitudinal neuroimaging dataset (N=144) using direct (positron emission tomography [PET]) and indirect (brain tissue iron) measures of striatal DA, resting-state functional connectivity data, field-standard risk-taking measures, and a validated developmentally-sensitive decision-making task. To increase statistical power, an additional sample (N=187) with key overlapping measures was also examined. Across three aims, mixed support was found for the hypothesized integrative psychobiological model. Consistent with prior work, significant developmental differences were found in risk-taking propensity measures (both adolescent peaks and age-related decreases), in brain iron-based, indirect measures of striatal DA (age-related increases), and in model-based learning during the decision-making task (age-related increases). However, associations between risk-taking propensity measures and striatal DA measures were small in magnitude and not statistically significant. Evidence was found for an association between indirect striatal DA measures and an exploratory analysis of performance on the decision-making task, where those with higher striatal iron for their age displayed more habitual responding during early adolescence. There was also evidence that striatal tissue iron measures were associated with frontostriatal connectivity. Nevertheless, broader circuit-level hypotheses of developmental changes in dopamine processing supporting changes in frontostriatal connectivity and subsequently risk-taking propensity were limited in this sample. Results suggest risk-taking may be related to striatal DA indirectly via decreased frontostriatal connectivity, although these associations were not developmentally sensitive in the current sample. These initial results establish testable hypotheses for larger developmental samples with more detailed phenotyping and expanded imaging metrics. Ultimately, this work can inform diverse neurodevelopmental pathways of adolescent risk-taking and contribute to biologically informed interventions for at-risk youth.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Tervo-Clemmens, Brendenbct16@pitt.edubct16
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairLuna,
Committee MemberHason,
Committee MemberWright,
Committee MemberSayette,
Committee MemberMolina,
Date: 8 October 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 3 March 2021
Approval Date: 8 October 2021
Submission Date: 12 May 2021
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 115
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Adolescence; Risk-taking; Dopamine; Longitudinal; fMRI
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2021 19:12
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2021 19:12


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