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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008 Mar;1124:111-26. doi: 10.1196/annals.1440.010.

The adolescent brain.

Author information

1
Sackler Institute, Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University, 1300 York Avenue, Box 140, New York, NY 10021, USA. bjc2002@med.cornell.edu

Abstract

Adolescence is a developmental period characterized by suboptimal decisions and actions that are associated with an increased incidence of unintentional injuries, violence, substance abuse, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. Traditional neurobiological and cognitive explanations for adolescent behavior have failed to account for the nonlinear changes in behavior observed during adolescence, relative to both childhood and adulthood. This review provides a biologically plausible model of the neural mechanisms underlying these nonlinear changes in behavior. We provide evidence from recent human brain imaging and animal studies that there is a heightened responsiveness to incentives and socioemotional contexts during this time, when impulse control is still relatively immature. These findings suggest differential development of bottom-up limbic systems, implicated in incentive and emotional processing, to top-down control systems during adolescence as compared to childhood and adulthood. This developmental pattern may be exacerbated in those adolescents prone to emotional reactivity, increasing the likelihood of poor outcomes.

PMID:
18400927
PMCID:
PMC2475802
DOI:
10.1196/annals.1440.010
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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