Teen Rebellion Mapped in the Brain

Teen Rebellion Mapped in the Brain

A new study carried out at the University of Pittsburgh has indicated what might be the cause of teenagers risky behaviour.

The research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, involved observing the brains of adolescent and mature rats during a reward activity. The team led by Bita Moghaddam used electrodes to show brain cell activity. They found that the brains of the adolescent mice reacted with a great deal more excitement that the mature adult brains (as seen below in Figure 1). This increased stimulation was observed along with a loss of organisation of brain cell function.

 

Figure 1: A graph showing the increase or decrease of neuronal firing during the reward activity (each line represents a neuron)

It is believed that this could be the reason why teenagers show an increased level of  rash behavior, addiction, and mental diseases. This was enforced y the results seen when the researchers investigated the orbitofrontal cortex, a region thought to weigh up payoffs and punishments in decision making.

“The disorganized and excess excitatory activity we saw in this part of the brain means that reward and other stimuli are processed differently by adolescents,” Moghaddam said. “This could intensify the effect of reward on decision-making and answer several questions regarding adolescent behaviour, from their greater susceptibility to substance abuse to their more extreme reactions to pleasurable and upsetting experiences.”

Whilst this study may give potential a chemical reason why teenagers are prone to poor judgement, it is unlikely that blaming the orbitofrontal cortex is likely to work as an excuse!

Source:

Moghaddam et al (2011). Reduced Neuronal Inhibition and Coordination of Adolescent Prefrontal Cortex during Motivated Behavior. J Neuro. 31(4):1471-1478