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Understanding the Brain of Teenage Boys

Understanding the Brain of Teenage Boys

Pushing boundaries and taking risks during adolescence is common, but for some the behavior becomes maladaptive.

Emerging research is now illuminating the source of this behavior providing insights that will be helpful in reducing unsafe teen conduct.

In a new issue, Florida State neuroscientist Pradeep Bhide, Ph.D., brought together some of the world’s foremost researchers in a quest to explain why teenagers — boys, in particular — often behave erratically.

The result is a series of 19 studies that approached the question from multiple scientific domains, including psychology, neurochemistry, brain imaging, clinical neuroscience, and neurobiology.

The studies are published in a special volume of Developmental Neuroscience, “Teenage Brains: Think Different?”

“Psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, neuroscientists, criminal justice professionals, and parents are engaged in a daily struggle to understand and solve the enigma of teenage risky behaviors,” Bhide said.

“Such behaviors impact not only the teenagers who obviously put themselves at serious and lasting risk but also families and societies in general.

“The emotional and economic burdens of such behaviors are quite huge. The research described in this book offers clues to what may cause such maladaptive behaviors and how one may be able to devise methods of countering, avoiding, or modifying these behaviors.”

Researchers provide new insights about the inner workings of a teenage boy’s brain:

  • Unlike children or adults, teenage boys show enhanced activity in the part of the brain that controls emotions when confronted with a threat. Magnetic resonance scanner readings in one study revealed that the level of activity in the limbic brain of adolescent males reacting to threat, even when they’ve been told not to respond to it, was strikingly different from that in adult men;
  • Using brain activity measurements, another team of researchers found that teenage boys were mostly immune to the threat of punishment but hypersensitive to the possibility of large gains from gambling. The results question the effectiveness of punishment as a deterrent for risky or deviant behavior in adolescent boys;
  • Another study demonstrated that a molecule known to be vital in developing fear of dangerous situations is less active in adolescent male brains. These findings point towards neurochemical differences between teenage and adult brains, which may underlie the complex behaviors exhibited by teenagers.

“The new studies illustrate the neurobiological basis of some of the more unusual but well-known behaviors exhibited by our teenagers,” Bhide said.

“Stress, hormonal changes, complexities of psychosocial environment, and peer-pressure all contribute to the challenges of assimilation faced by teenagers.

“These studies attempt to isolate, examine, and understand some of these potential causes of a teenager’s complex conundrum. The research sheds light on how we may be able to better interact with teenagers at home or outside the home, how to design educational strategies and how best to treat or modify a teenager’s maladaptive behavior.”

Source: Newswise/Florida State

 

Abstract of teenage brain photo by shutterstock.

Understanding the Brain of Teenage Boys

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Understanding the Brain of Teenage Boys. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 11, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2014/08/29/understanding-the-brain-of-teenage-boys/74259.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.