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Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2013 Apr;22(2):140-145.

The Teenage Brain: The Stress Response and the Adolescent Brain.

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Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and Behavior Program, Barnard College of Columbia University, New York, NY 10027.


Adolescence is a time of many psychosocial and physiological changes. One such change is how an individual responds to stressors. Specifically, adolescence is marked by significant shifts in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis reactivity, resulting in heightened stress-induced hormonal responses. It is presently unclear what mediates these changes in stress reactivity and what impacts they may have on an adolescent individual. However, stress-sensitive limbic and cortical brain areas that continue to mature during adolescence may be particularly vulnerable to these shifts in responsiveness. Consequently, perturbations of the maturing adolescent brain may contribute to the increase in stress-related psychological dysfunctions, such as anxiety, depression, and drug abuse, often observed during this stage of development. The purpose of this review is to describe the changes that occur in HPA function during adolescence, as well as briefly discuss the possible ramifications of these changes on the developing brain and psychological health.


Adolescence; Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis; Puberty; Stress

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