aDepartment of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, California

bDepartment of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

*Correspondence may be sent to Andrea L. Courtney at the Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Jordan Hall, 450 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305, or via email at:



Objective: Although an association between exposure to alcohol advertising and underage drinking is well documented, the underlying neurobiological contributions to this association remain largely unexplored. From an epidemiological perspective, identifying the neurobiological plausibility of this exposure–outcome associa- tion is a crucial step toward establishing marketing as a contribu- tor to youth drinking and informing public policy interventions to decrease this influence.

Method: We conducted a critical review of the literature on neurobiological risk factors and adolescent brain de- velopment, social influences on drinking, and neural contributions to reward sensitization and risk taking. By drawing from these separate areas of research, we propose a unified, neurobiological model of alcohol marketing effects on underage drinking.

Results: We discuss and extend the literature to suggest that responses in prefrontal–reward cir- cuitry help establish alcohol advertisements as reward-predictive cues that may reinforce consumption upon exposure. We focus on adolescence as a sensitive window of development during which youth are particularly sus- ceptible to social and reward cues, which are defining characteristics of many alcohol advertisements. As a result, alcohol marketing may promote positive associations early in life that motivate social drinking, and corresponding neurobiological changes may contribute to later patterns of alcohol abuse.

Conclusions: The neurobiological model proposed here, which considers neurodevelopmental risk factors, social influences, and reward sensitization to alcohol cues, suggests that exposure to alcohol marketing could plausibly influence underage drinking by sensitizing prefrontal–reward circuitry.

Link to the article: A Neurobiological Model of Alcohol Marketing Effects on Underage Drinking 

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