Washington: Teenagers who experiment or explore new things may have brain processes that work differently than those of pre-teens who do not, according to a new study.
The study, to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 67th Annual Meeting in Washington April 18 to 25, involved 62 girls aged 11 and 13 who completed a task of measuring exploratory and experimenting behaviour.
"The beginning of adolescence is associated with seeking new experiences and increasing exploratory behaviours, but little research has been done to measure that increase or to look at what happens in the brain during this period," said Andrew Kayser from the University of California San Francisco and study author.
The reward-based task involved a clock face. The second hand of the clock made a complete rotation over five seconds.
The girls were to explore the clock by stopping it at different times in order to learn what action would be rewarded most.
Based on their behaviour on the task, the group was split into 41 "explorers" and 21 "non-explorers".
A link was found that was stronger in explorers than in non-explorers between the rostrolateral prefrontal cortex and the posterior insula and putamen, parts of the brain sensitive to the "state of the body" and "carrying out actions", respectively.
"This research is fascinating because it could help us to understand how exploration can lead to both good and bad behaviours that promote or reduce well-being in teenagers," Kayser pointed out.
"If we can better understand these brain connections, down the road we may be able to come up with a way to better identify teens most likely to engage in dangerous or risky behaviours," Kayser concluded.