Teenage Brains Are Malleable And Vulnerable, Researchers Say

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Adolescent brains have gotten a bad rap, according to neuroscientists. 


It’s true that teenage brains can be impulsive, scientists reported at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in New Orleans. But adolescent brains are also vulnerable, dynamic and highly responsive to positive feedback, they say.

“The teen brain isn’t broken,” says Jay Giedd, a child psychiatry researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health. He says the rapid changes occurring in the brains of teenagers make these years “a time of enormous opportunity.”

Part of the bad rap has come from studies suggesting that adolescent brains are “wired” to engage in risky behavior such as drug use or unsafe sex, says BJ Casey of Weill Cornell Medical College.

These studies have concluded that teens are prone to this sort of behavior because the so-called reward systems in their brains are very sensitive while circuits involved in self-control are still not fully developed, Casey says. The result has been a perception that “adolescents are driving around with no steering wheel and no brake,” she says.

Casey says a new study from her lab makes it clear that this isn’t the case.

Written By: Jon Hamilton
continue to source article at npr.org

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