How do you study 600 boozing teenage boys?
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent and i. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; four times highly commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigations into the tobacco industry. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Monday 03 December 2012
Interviewing underage teenage boys about drinking needed
the full approval of local hospital ethical committees overseeing the research
at the eight centres in the UK, Ireland, France and Germany.
The boys were recruited from local high schools and were promised complete anonymity. Even their parents, who had to give their approval, were not allowed to see the boys’ answers to the researchers’ questionnaires.
The boys were also asked to give samples of DNA for genetic analysis, which revealed which variations of the RASGRF-2 “thrill seeking” gene they carried. Their patterns of brain activity were monitored by hospital MRI scanners to see which parts of the brain were activated in the presence of certain stimuli that simulated the anticipation of a reward.
The scientists also asked the parents of the boys to complete questionnaires to assess their own attitudes to alcohol use, which could be used to see whether there was a family history of heavy drinking. Some of the questionnaires were completed on-line, some during face-to-face interviews with the researchers.
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