What’s Wrong with the Teenage Brain?
asks and answers the question in every parent’s mind, why are teenagers
reckless? It’s due to how the teen brain interprets risks and rewards:
Recent studies in the neuroscientist B.J. Casey’s lab at Cornell
University suggest that adolescents aren’t reckless because they underestimate
risks, but because they overestimate rewards—or, rather, find
rewards more rewarding than adults do. The reward centers of the adolescent
brain are much more active than those of either children or adults.
Think about the incomparable intensity of first love, the never-to-be-recaptured
glory of the high-school basketball championship.
What teenagers want most of all are social rewards, especially
the respect of their peers. In a recent study by the developmental psychologist
Laurence Steinberg at Temple University, teenagers did a simulated high-risk
driving task while they were lying in an fMRI brain-imaging machine.
The reward system of their brains lighted up much more when they thought
another teenager was watching what they did—and they took more
(Image: Harry Campbell)