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Study: Altruistic adolescents less likely to become depressed
Date:4/24/2014

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. It is better to give than to receive at least if you're an adolescent and you enjoy giving, a new study suggests.

The study found that 15- and 16-year-olds who find pleasure in pro-social activities, such as giving their money to family members, are less likely to become depressed than those who get a bigger thrill from taking risks or keeping the money for themselves.

The researchers detail their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study focused on the ventral striatum, a brain region that regulates feelings of pleasure in response to rewards. Previous research has shown that ventral striatum activity tends to be more pronounced in adolescence, suggesting that people at this age experience the pleasure of rewards more intensely than younger children or adults.

Adolescence also is a time of heightened risk-taking, which may be related to young people's increased sensitivity to rewards, said University of Illinois psychology professor Eva Telzer, who led the research.

"There's this trend where from childhood to adolescence, morbidity and mortality rates increase 200 to 300 percent, and it's almost entirely due to these preventable risk-taking behaviors," she said.

Depressive symptoms also tend to increase during this time, she said.

Using a functional brain scan, the researchers measured ventral striatum activity in adolescents who engaged in tasks that involved either giving money to others, keeping the money or making risky financial decisions in the hope of earning a reward. The team tested the subjects' depressive symptoms initially and at the end of a year.

The researchers found that activity in the ventral striatum in response to different rewards predicted whether the subjects' dep
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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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Study: Altruistic adolescents less likely to become depressed
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