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Society's Changing Definition of Adulthood

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Published on Aug 28, 2009

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Dr. Greg Berns talks about the way society has changed its definition of adulthood over time. 100 years ago, a 15-year-old would be consider grown up and ready to fend for himself. These days some 25-year-old are still treated and acting like teenagers.

Background

In order to better understand the relationship between high risk-taking and the brain's development, Emory University and Emory School of Medicine neuroscientists used a form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to measure structural changes in white matter in the brain. The study's findings are published in the Aug. 26, 2009 PLoS ONE. The study enrolled 91 adolescents ages 12 through 18 over a three-year period. Levels of engagement in dangerous behaviors were measured by a survey that included questions about the teens' thrill seeking behaviors, reckless behaviors, rebellious behaviors and antisocial behaviors. DTI was used to measure corresponding structural changes in white matter.

"We were surprised to discover that risk-taking was associated with more highly-developed white matter - a more mature brain," says Berns. "We were also surprised to learn that except for slightly higher scores in risk-taking, there was no significant difference in the maturity of the white matter between males and females."

For More Information

Risky Behavior in Adolescents May Signal Mature Brain (Press Release, 8/26/09)
http://whsc.emory.edu/home/news/relea...

PLoS Journal Article: "Adolescent Engagement in Dangerous Behaviors Is Associated with Increased White Matter Maturing of Frontal Cortex"
http://www.plosone.org/article/info:d...

Greg Berns on "Sound Science"

http://www.whsc.emory.edu/soundscienc...

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