A popular theory in recent neuroscience proposes that slow development of the prefrontal cortex -- and its weak connectivity with brain reward regions -- explains teenagers' seemingly impulsive and risky behavior. But an extensive literature review to be published in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience challenges that interpretation. The researchers examined the evidence behind that argument and found that much of it misinterpreted adolescent exploratory behavior as impulsive and lacking in control. Instead, the review suggests that much of what looks like adolescent impulsivity is behavior that is often guided by the desire to learn about the world. Neuroscientists were quick to interpret what appeared to be a characteristic of the developing brain as evidence of stereotypes about adolescent risk taking. But these behaviors are not symptoms of a brain deficit.
The teenage brain: prone to risk-taking or creative?
Teens aren't just risk machines – there's a method to their madness
He receives funding from the National Institutes of Health. She is part of the leadership for the Center on the Developing Adolescent. Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licence. You know the conventional wisdom: Adolescents are impulsive by nature , like bombs ready to go off at the most minor trigger. Parents feel they must cross their fingers and hope no one lights the fuse that will lead to an explosion. Neuroscience evidence has seemed to bolster the case that adolescents are just wired to make bad decisions. Studies suggest that brain regions associated with self-control and long-term planning, such as the prefrontal cortex , are still developing.
Why teens take risks: It's not a deficit in brain development
Here's how to inoculate ourselves against negative ones. Verified by Psychology Today. The Wide Wide World of Psychology. Adolescents and young adults take more risks than any other age groups Steinberg,
As director of research at a public policy center that studies adolescent risk-taking, I study teenage brains and teenage behavior. We found that much of the risk behavior attributed to adolescents is not the result of an out-of-control brain. As it turns out, the evidence supports an alternative interpretation: Risky behavior is a normal part of development and reflects a biologically driven need for exploration — a process aimed at acquiring experience and preparing teens for the complex decisions they will need to make as adults. We often characterize adolescents as impulsive, reckless and emotionally unstable. This creates an imbalance in the adolescent brain that leads to even more impulsive and risky behavior than seen in children — or so the theory goes.