Teen Brains Wired Differently

But Young People Can Still Make Wise Decisions When They Make Time to Think About Choices

Teenagers today are known for their irritable, impulsive behavior and constant craving of gratification. Teen minds are wired to be impatient. But why?

Researchers at Max-Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany recently published findings that suggest teens’ misbehavior is due to incomplete development of the decision making machinery in their brains. The amygdala is the emotional center of the brain. Teens' amygdalas are not completely developed so, teens are not as equipped as adults to envision the consequences of their actions.

The study’s head researcher, Wouter van den Bos, conducted an experiment to see how impatient adolescents are. The study included 50 individuals ranging from eight to twenty-five years old. Each participant was asked the following question: Would you rather have €20 now, equal to $22.52 American dollars, or €50, equal to $56.29 American dollars, in a month? Teens were more likely to take the instant cash.

Scientists were curious to see if there was a reason why most teens chose the instant cash instead of waiting one month for a much greater reward. They found there was a difference in the way teens and adults brains function. Researchers used an MRI to measure activity and the structural connectivity of parts of the brain involved in the decision-making process.

Every time we make a decision, there are two parts of our brain involved. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the striatum. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex thinks and plans for the future and evaluates the consequences of a decision. The striatum looks at the rewards of a decision, testing to see if the decision is worth the reward. In teenagers however, the connections between these two decision-making components in the brain are still developing, so the influence of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex on weighing options is limited. Teens tend to make decisions that result in instant gratification.

Wouter van den Bos said, “It’s not that adolescents don’t plan for the future at all. But when they make decisions, they focus too much on the here and now. Adolescence is a training ground for the brain. However, although it's more difficult for adolescents to decide against short-term rewards, they are capable of doing so.”

In 2012, another researcher in the field of neuroscience, B.J Casey, concluded that if teens take a few moments to think prior to making a decision, they are just as capable of making a rational decision as an adult.

Numerous studies have shown that the adolescents of our world are born to have an impulsive mindset. But with more thinking and planning applied to their choices, teens can control impulsive behavior and grow into mature adults.

[Sources: DOGO News; USA Today]

Awesome job with this piece, Je'Niya! Proud of your hard work :). Love the lead especially! – MckennaMadison, WI (2016-11-22 18:07)
Great job, Je'Niya!! – James KramerMonona, WI (2016-11-22 19:03)
Great job Je'Niya! Interesting and relevant topic. I'm proud of you. – Ms. Vena LevesqueSpring Harbor MS (2016-12-22 06:56)
You are such an amazing writer, Je'Niya! Keep up the great work! – TaylorUW-Madison (2017-01-03 11:28)
I really enjoyed this article. I love learning new things about the brain. Keep up the good work! – Sarah UsecheVerona Area High School (2017-01-07 11:36)
Great job! – MarioSennett (2017-01-23 15:12)