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Weaker gut instinct makes teens open to risky behavior
Date:3/31/2014

onses and a greater disconnection from brain regions that could help regulate responses.

"This disconnect can lead mid-adolescents to process untrustworthiness in different ways," he said. "If you look at mid-adolescents, they don't rate trustworthiness the same as adults or younger or older adolescents. There are clearly some changes happening in the mid-adolescent brain in how regions talk to each other, and can lead to behavioral differences in how trust is established."

These findings contradict the traditional view that social and emotional behavior fluctuations caused by the limbic system even out steadily in later adolescence as the prefrontal cortex -- the brain region responsible for cognitive thinking and decision making -- develops.

It may be possible, he said, to generalize the findings beyond trustworthiness to other domains, such as intuitions and responses that go beyond the set of faces used in the experiment. In fact, according to LaBar's co-author, Duke associate professor of psychiatry Nancy Zucker, these results could also have future clinical implications, especially among girls with anorexia nervosa.

This research is part of a larger study into how healthy adolescents and those with anorexia nervosa -- an eating disorder characterized by excessive weight loss -- use signals from their bodies to guide their decisions.

"Anorexia nervosa principally onsets during adolescence, with 14- to 15-years-old being one of the peak periods," said Zucker, who is also a faculty member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. "If the state of the body is uncoupled from what is important to us, then this period may be a 'window of opportunity' for those with anorexia nervosa to engage in behaviors that are starkly in contrast to the body's need."

This study's findings could help design prevention and treatment interventions that hone in on risky decision-making or help adolescents with mental illness rely
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Contact: Karl Bates
karl.bates@duke.edu
919-681-8054
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

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