--Original published at CurtisCollegeBlog
What is the reasoning behind adolescents making reckless decisions? According to one study, the key to this is the enhanced striatal activity (activity in the corpus striatum) in their brains. This activity in the brain is generally linked to negative outcomes such as risky behavior and alcohol abuse. While this seems as if it could be detrimental and harmful to young ones, it also shows positivity. From the same study we can see that the enhancement of this activity is adaptive for learning, and shows adolescence is the peak phase for feedback-learning performance.
Over a five year span, 736 fMRI scans were taken across 299 people from the ages of 8-29, none of which were allowed any form of psychiatric diagnosis or psychotropic medication. These scans focused on the levels of striatal activity in three regions: the dorsal caudate, the ventral caudate, and the accumbens. In terms of sensitivity to learning signals, all three regions show a spike in the adolescent age area, with adults and children being lower. Then, they contrasted positive and negative learning during the same tests. In the dorsal caudate, it showed and even flatline across all ages tested. The ventral caudate shows a steady decline as age increases, while the accumbens displays a high level for children then adolescents plummet, and adults start to rise again. In general, the results do show adolescents respond the best (of the age groups) to feedback learning.
I didn’t know how hard it would be to write an article for this study. I judged the pop culture article pretty hard off of not putting enough information in there, but I felt I only added little to know info. I think it was just a basic to-the-point study, and all of the other things added in are just fluff. I think a decent amount of the information I brought forward was also put in the pop culture, with my article adding slightly more detail. I have a little more respect for journalists after writing that. Taking a psychological study and trying to turn it into a nice article for the public to read is pretty hard. This is especially hard when you have to try to answer the five questions of psychology without them being answered in the study you are using. My article shows that striatal activity and feedback are the two variables measured via fMRI. Two big unknowns are how they select the participants, and the doubt for causal claims. We assume the conclusion is generalized toward the right population since it was targeting adolescents throughout the study.
Leiden, Universiteit. “Adolescent brain makes learning easier.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 December 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171221122925.htm>.
Peters, S., and E. A. Crone. “Increased Striatal Activity in Adolescence Benefits Learning.”Nature Communications, vol. 8, no. 1, 19 Dec. 2017, pp. 1–9. Nature, doi:10.1038/s41467-017-02174-z.