It's true that teenage brains can be impulsive, scientists reported at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in New Orleans. But adolescent brains are also vulnerable, dynamic and highly responsive to positive feedback, they say.
"The teen brain isn't broken," says Jay Giedd, a child psychiatry researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health. He says the rapid changes occurring in the brains of teenagers make these years "a time of enormous opportunity."
These studies have concluded that teens are prone to this sort of behavior because the so-called reward systems in their brains are very sensitive while circuits involved in self-control are still not fully developed, Casey says. The result has been a perception that "adolescents are driving around with no steering wheel and no brake," she says.
Casey says a new study from her lab makes it clear that this isn't the case.