We’ve done some articles about the developing teen brain and how it plays a huge part in risky driving habits. Here they are, if you want to catch up:
Well, now new research shows us a little more.
While it’s hard to generalize about an age group, since some teens are more developed than others, scientists still suggest that, in general, teens specifically struggle to keep their cool in social situations. “Because many crimes committed during adolescence involve emotionally fraught social situations, such as conflict, Kristina Caudle [a neuroscientist at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City who led the study] and colleagues decided to test whether teens perform badly on a common impulsivity task when faced with social cues of threat. They recruited 83 people, ranging in age from 6 to 29, to perform a simple “Go/No-Go” task, in which they watched a series of faces making neutral or threatening facial expressions flicker past on a computer screen. Each time the participants saw a neutral face, they were instructed to hit a button. They were also told to hold back from pressing the button when they saw a threatening face. As the participants performed the task, the researchers monitored their brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging.” What they found was the teens in the study made about 15% more errors than the adults and children wh6en attempting to stop themselves from pressing the button. They also found that “males performed worse than females, suggesting a sex difference that fits with the disproportionate number of crimes that male teens commit, Caudle says. Those adolescents who did manage to restrain themselves showed significantly higher activity in a brain region called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), which is involved in top-down control of behavior. “You could think of it as the brake,” Caudle says. “It’s as if the teenage brain might need to work a little harder to hold that response back.” This could help explain why teenage criminals are less likely to be repeat offenders, the researchers say—as their brains develop into adulthood, it gets easier for them to rein in their behavior.
“This work strongly suggests that the teenage brain is highly impulsive in the face of threat and points to unusual vmPFC activity as a possible biological underpinning,” says Jon Horvitz, a neurobiologist at the City College of New York. “It is an exciting finding.”