Teens can resist the temptation for risky behavior.
Teenagers become more able to resist the urge to take part in risky behavior as their brains develop, not less, a study indicates. MRI scans of boys’ and girls’ brains aged 10 and 13 show that activity in a part of the pre-frontal cortex tasked with deciding whether or not to take risks, called the ventral striatum, increases significantly.
Jennifer Pfeifer, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon in the US, said the finding should provide parents of young teenagers with some relief.
She said: “People tend to think of adolescence as the time when teenagers are really susceptible to peer pressure.
“That is the case, but in addition to that added susceptibility they are also improving their ability to resist it.
“It’s just that peer pressure is increasing because they spend a lot more time with peers during this time and less time with family. So it is a good thing that resistance to such influences is actually strengthening in their brains.”
The children’s brains were scanned to see how they reacted to photos of faces with a variety of expressions, such as angry, fearful, happy and sad.
The research, published today in the journal Neuron, also found large increases in activity in an almond-shaped region deep in the brain called the amygdala, when children were presented with sad faces.
Prof Pfeifer asked: “Rates of depression are particularly enhanced for teen girls. Is this increased response to sad faces somehow part of that?”