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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Teenagers Prone to Addiction

The teenage years are perhaps when we are the most vulnerable. Our brains are still developing and we are susceptible to a number of different pressures that can impact our decision making process. A new study conducted on adolescent and adult mice may have pinpointed why teenagers are more prone to addiction and risky behavior than adults.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have found some differences in brain response to a food reward between adolescent and adult rodents. Again, this could explain why adolescents take more risks and are more prone to addiction, depression, and schizophrenia.

“The brain region that is very critical in planning your actions and in habit formation is directly tapped by reward in adolescents, which means the reward could have a stronger influence in their decision-making, in what they do next, as well as forming habits in adolescents,” study researcher Bita Moghaddam told LiveScience.

“Teens could do stupid things in response to a situation not because they are stupid, but because their brains are working differently. Somehow they perceive and react to a situation differently,” Moghaddam said.

There is still much we do not understand about the human brain and certainly there are differences between animals and humans. However, much of the processes taking place are similar, so it may be fair to say that what we see happening between adult rats and adolescent rats may also be seen with adult humans and teenage humans.

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences

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