Young people

Wild teenagers are actually mature, misunderstood

Teens being mature Cautious ones are immature, research says

When your teenager is acting up, they're not being immature. They're just being grown up.

That, at least, is what a new study into teen behaviour has found. Using brain imaging, scientists discovered that teenagers who engage in risk taking have more developed frontal white matter tracts than their more cautious, well-behaved peers.

The brain does not reach maturity until the mid-20s and established theory assumed that the immature teen brain was responsible for impulsive and risky behaviour.

"We were surprised to discover that risk-taking was associated with more highly-developed white matter – a more mature brain," said principal investigator Dr Gregory Berns, professor of Psychiatry and Neuroeconomics at Emory University.

The study looked at 91 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 over three years. Their propensity for 'dangerous' behaviour was measured through surveys about their thrill-seeking, reckless, rebellious and anti-social behaviours. Brain imaging was then used to measure the development of their frontal white matter.

Dr Berns said that it is not clear if a more developed teen brain leads to risky behaviour, or if the risky behaviour leads to quicker brain development.

The study's findings are published in the August 26th issue of PLoS ONE.

This article was published on Wed 26 August 2009



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