Risky behavior in teens may be caused by imbalances in brains` emotional networks

Washington: A new study has revealed that connections between certain brain regions are amplified in teens that are more prone to risk.

According to researchers from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas, human brains have an emotional-regulation network that exists to govern emotions and influence decision-making and antisocial or risk-seeking behavior may be associated with an imbalance in this network.

The study looked at 36 adolescents aged 12-17; eighteen risk-taking teens were age- and sex-matched to a group of 18 non-risk-taking teens. Participants were screened for risk-taking behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use, sexual promiscuity, and physical violence and underwent functional MRI (fMRI) scans to examine communication between brain regions associated with the emotional-regulation network. Interestingly, the risk-taking group showed significantly lower income compared to the non-risk taking group.

The scientists found that shows that risk-taking teens exhibit hyperconnectivity between the amygdala, a center responsible for emotional reactivity, and specific areas of the prefrontal cortex associated with emotion regulation and critical thinking skills. The researchers also found increased activity between areas of the prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens, a center for reward sensitivity that is often implicated in addiction research.

Lead researcher Sam Dewitt said that their findings are crucial in that they help identify potential brain biomarkers that, when taken into context with behavioral differences, may help identify which adolescents are at risk for dangerous and pathological behaviors in the future.

The study was published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging.


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