Teen brains wired to seek rewards: Study

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New York: Teenagers' brains are wired to respond to rewards more strongly than adults, a new study has found.

When teens receive money, or anticipate receiving it, their brains' pleasure centre lights up more than it does in adults, researchers found.

The reason is not that teenagers value money more than adults, but because teenage brains have not finished maturing, researchers said.

"The current study replicates our previous research that the adolescent brain is more responsive and excitable to rewards compared to adults and to younger children," said Galvan, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles and leader of the study.

Galvan and her colleagues scanned the brains of 19 adults (age 25 to 30) and 22 teenagers (age 13 to 17) using functional magnetic resonance imaging, while the participants played a gambling game.

In each trial, participants had to decide whether to accept or reject a bet with a 50-50 chance of winning or losing various amounts of money.

In the scans, the ventral striatum - a brain region - lit up more in the teens' brains than in the adults' brains, even on trials in which both groups accepted the same bets suggesting the two groups expected the same pay-off.

The teenagers also made more risky bets, for greater rewards, than the adults did.

The scientists concluded that the brain circuits for responding to rewards are less mature in teens, even though adults value the reward similarly.

"These findings add to a growing body of research showing that how the developing brain responds to rewards is directly related to the choices they make, including risky choices and pleasure-seeking behaviour," Galvan said.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.