A study of more than 600 boys has suggested a variant gene can make some children more inclined to drink alcohol at a young age.
Prof Gunter Schumann of King's College London said: "People seek out situations which make them happy, so if you're brain is wired to find alcohol rewarding you will seek it out."
According to the research team, a mutant form of gene RASGRF2 makes the brain more sensisitive to habit-forming rewards and can stimulate the pleasure-seeking molecule dopamine when mixed with alcohol.
Teenage alcohol abuse has been linked to poor brain development, future health problems and antisocial behaviour, which is why Prof Schumann believes the breakthrough is so important.
"If we can identify risk factors for early alcohol abuse then it helps to design prevention and treatment interventions before addictions are formed."
The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forms part of a project investigating the causes of risk-taking behaviour in children from England, Ireland, France and Germany.
Estimates suggest that about 60% of children aged 11-15 consume alcohol in England, with the rate of those engaged in so-called 'binge drinking' rising by more than 10% over the past four years.
Posted 04/12/2012 by firstname.lastname@example.org