Academic journal article Science Scope

Teen Brains

Academic journal article Science Scope

Teen Brains

Article excerpt

Adolescence brings more freedom, and with it, more opportunities for risky behaviors. Mental health researchers say teen risk-taking is also a natural response to changes in their brains. Monique Ernst, a researcher and clinician in the National Institute of Mental Health's (NIMH) Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program Branch, points out that "This behavior doesn't come from the environment only. It is actually very much governed by changes that happen in the brain as the adolescents grow."

Ernst and her colleagues imaged the brains of teens and adults who were asked to play a gambling game that the researchers have dubbed "the wheel of fortune." Volunteers chose whether to bet in a situation with low odds of winning a larger amount of money, and another situation with good odds of winning a small amount of money. The scientists took functional MRI brain scans during the task, and also questioned the volunteers about their emotional reactions to betting, winning, and losing. …

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