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Teenage Brains

December 1, 2005

New research is helping scientists better understand the teenage brain–and may help you better understand your teenager.


Is your teenager out-of-control? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Teenagers can have a hard time controlling their impulses, and now new brain imaging studies reveal why. Neuroscientist Beatriz Luna of the University of Pittsburgh found that adolescents could perform nearly as well as adults on simple tests of impulse control—but brain images showed that they were severely taxing the prefrontal cortex, the part responsible for self-control.

BEATRIZ LUNA (University of Pittsburgh):
Just like an adult who does a very difficult task and really uses a lot of prefrontal cortex is more prone to error, the adolescent doing something that’s relatively simple is exhausting prefrontal cortex and could have error in their ability to have cognitive control of behavior.

So while teenagers can control their impulses as well as adults—their brains have to work overtime to do it. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.