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Pitt researchers report internal and environmental factors trigger unique brain activity in teens
Date:2/22/2010

lescent 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 irra
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Contact: Morgan Kelly
mekelly@pitt.edu
412-624-4356
University of Pittsburgh
Source:Eurekalert

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