Teenagers develop the ability to resist risky behaviour at the same time they face intense pressure to misbehave, scientists have discovered.
Researchers at the University of Oregon measured brain activity of 24 girls and 14 boys when they were 10 years old, and again when they were 13.
During the tests, the children were shown photos of faces displaying a number of different expressions, such as happy, sad, angry and fearful while having an MRI scan to measure blood flow in their brains. They also filled out surveys about peer pressure and risky behaviour.
The scientists discovered there was an increase in activity in the ventral striatumin deep inside the brain. A number of other studies have indicated that this part of the brain is crucial in regulating teenagers' emotions as they grow into adults.
Professor Jennifer Pfeifer told the journal Neuron:
"This is a complex point, because people tend to think of adolescence as the time when teenagers are really susceptible to peer pressure.
"That is the case, but in addition to that added susceptibility they are also improving their ability to resist it.
"It's just that peer pressure is increasing because they spend a lot more time with peers during this time and less time with family. So it is a good thing that resistance to such influences is actually strengthening in their brains."
Posted by Robert Mair on 15.3.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: firstname.lastname@example.org