Navigation Links
Pitt researchers report internal and environmental factors trigger unique brain activity in teens

PITTSBURGHWhile the otherworldly behavior of teenagers is well documented, University of Pittsburgh researchers have taken a significant step toward finally unraveling the actual brain activity that can drive adolescents to engage in impulsive, self-indulgent, or self-destructive behavior. Published in the current edition of Behavioral Neuroscience, the Pitt study demonstrates that adolescent brains are more sensitive to internal and environmental factors than adult brains and suggests that the teenage tendency to experiment with drugs and develop psychological disorders could stem from this susceptibility.

Lead researcher Bita Moghaddam, a professor in the Department of Neuroscience in Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences, said that although the exact mechanics of the adolescent brain's reaction need further investigation, the current study is a starting point in mapping the neural path from stimuli to behavior in the adolescent brain. Pitt neuroscience doctoral student David Sturman was the Behavioral Neuroscience report's lead author, conducting the study with Moghaddam and Pitt research assistant Daniel Mandell. The project was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.

"Adolescence is a period of volatility and vulnerability with tendencies toward interpersonal conflict, emotional reactivity, and risk behavior, but we know very little about the brain mechanisms that promote this state," Moghaddam said. "We want to know how the adolescent brain interacts with the environment at the brain-cell level, when the neural signals are firing. Once we identify how certain factors trigger teenage behavior, we might better understandand possibly addressthe origin of the risk taking and psychological disorders such as depression and schizophrenia that occur during this period."

The researchers trained adolescent and adult rats to respond to a visual light cue by rewarding them with sugar pellets. Previous research has shown that adolescent rats and mice exhibit behavioral differences from adults similar to those of adolescent humans, including greater impulsiveness, impatience, and vulnerability to psychological problems, the authors wrote. The rats were placed in front of three holes with the light behind the middle hole. If a rat poked its nose into the center hole when the light was activated, it received a pellet; if it explored the right or left hole, it got nothing. The researchers found that the adolescents responded to the light cue at least as readily as adult rats, suggesting a similar or slightly better capacity for learning.

After six days, the rats no longer received a reward for choosing the center hole. They were divided into four test groups, each with an equal number of adults and adolescents: rats that were given 20 percent less food between sessions and received the light cue; rats that received the light cue but could eat as much as they liked between sessions; a group that received less food and no light cue; and a group that could eat between sessions but was not shown the light cue during the experiments.

Moghaddam and her team found that adolescents tended to return to the center hole far more often than the adults although they received no reward and continued going to the hole long after the adult rats stopped altogether. Such doggedness was even more prominent in adolescents who received the light cue and had a restricted diet before the experiment. This group nosed the center hole 30 times, twice as often as adults under the same circumstances and as adolescents with less food and no light cue. Adolescents that received the cue and had free access to food made for the center hole only a third as often.

Thus, rats experiencing internal and external stimulihunger and the light cuecompulsively sought the earlier reward long after the other rats realized it no longer existed. These results suggest that human teenagers can similarly behave irrationally and compulsively when faced with certain feelings and settings, Moghaddam said. "A scenario could range from the relatively mundane, such as hungry teenagers being more likely than adults to buy fast food immediately after seeing an advertisement, to despair and relationship problems eliciting thoughts of suicide," she said.

For the project's next phase, the Pitt group will repeat the experiments while monitoring activity in the emotion and cognition centers of the adolescent and adult rats' brains, Moghaddam said. This information will help Moghaddam and her colleagues grasp how brain cells encode the behavioral signals sent in response to stimuli.


Contact: Morgan Kelly
University of Pittsburgh

Related biology news :

1. MDC researchers link protein tether to touch perception
2. Caltech researchers presenting at AAAS Meeting
3. Researchers develop standard of care for breast cancer survivors with lymphedema
4. U-M researchers find key interaction that controls telomeres
5. Researchers identify mechanism for Frank-Ter Haar syndrome
6. OHSU researchers discover cellular mechanism that protects against disease
7. Cameras of the future: heart researchers create revolutionary photographic technique
8. Caltech researchers obtain first brain recordings from behaving fruit flies
9. Researchers envision high-tech applications for multiferroic crystals
10. Dartmouth researchers describe how the cholera bacteria becomes infectious
11. Researchers develop dietary formula that maintains youthful function into old age
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/4/2015)... , November 4, 2015 ... market report published by Transparency Market Research "Home Security Solutions ... and Forecast 2015 - 2022", the global home security solutions ... bn by 2022. The market is estimated to expand ... from 2015 to 2022. Rising security needs among customers ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 2015  Rubicon Genomics, Inc., today announced an ... its DNA library preparation products, including the ThruPLEX ... Plasma-seq kit. ThruPLEX Plasma-seq has been optimized for ... libraries for liquid biopsies--the analysis of cell-free circulating ... in cancer and other conditions. Eurofins Scientific is ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... 2015 Munich, Germany ... technology (ASGM) automatically maps data from mobile eye tracking ... , so that they can be quantitatively analyzed with ... Munich, Germany , October 28-29, 2015. SMI,s Automated ... mobile eye tracking videos created with SMI,s Eye ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 25, 2015 , ... ... and the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OPBAP) has been formalized with the ... other AMA team leaders met with OPBAP leaders Capt. Karl Minter and Capt. ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... ... featured on AngelList early in their initial angel funding process. Now, they are ... individuals looking to make early stage investments in the microbiome space. In ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015 Cepheid (NASDAQ: CPHD ) today ... following conference, and invited investors to participate via webcast. ...      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 11.00 a.m. Eastern Time ...      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 11.00 a.m. Eastern Time ... New York, NY      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... Copper is ... it is bound to proteins, copper is also toxic to cells. With a ... Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will conduct a systematic study of copper in the bacteria ...
Breaking Biology Technology: