Addiction has been thought of as a disease for many years, but much still remains unsolved about its origin.Is it passed down in families by a gene, or by a behavior? Why do some siblings succumb to addiction, while some don’t? How do different types of addiction originate?
The brain creates maps or imprints of behaviors we do repeatedly (you may have heard that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill: basically those 10,000 hours are creating patterns in the brain so it can seamlessly do an action).
For something like addiction, it’s difficult to say which happens first. Are addicts born with a brain mapping that causes their addiction, or does the addiction develop, and create an imprint on the brain that’s hard to escape? (And for some people, does it develop more easily, and why?)
Seeking to answer that question, scientists measured the impulse control of siblings where one was an addict. Interestingly, even the non-addict siblings had poor self-control compared to non-related control pairings.
What’s this mean? Whether it was passed on through subtle familial clues or biology, the brain maps of siblings were similar in terms of the potential for addiction.
Like many studies, this only raises more questions: what stops the other sibling from having an addiction? Addiction is a disease that can be overcome, but better understanding of how it begins may help people with a family history understand their risks, and how to avoid addiction down the line.
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