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Impulsivity in teens not unique to humans

Impulsivity in teens not unique to humans

Impulsiveness during adolescence is not unique to us, according to a study which suggests that the brains of human and other primates go through similar changes in teen years, particularly in the areas that affect self-control.

"As is widely known, adolescence is a time of heightened impulsivity and sensation seeking, leading to questionable choices," said Beatriz Luna of the University of Pittsburgh in the US.

"However, this behavioral tendency is based on an adaptive neurobiological process that is crucial for molding the brain based on gaining new experiences," Luna said.

Structural, functional, and neurophysiological comparisons between us and macaque monkeys show that this difficulty in stopping reactive responses is similar in our primate counterparts – who during puberty, also show limitations in tests where they have to stop a reactive response."The monkey is really the most powerful animal model that comes closest to the human condition," said Christos Constantinidis of Wake Forest School of Medicine in the US.

"They have a developed prefrontal cortex and follow a similar trajectory with the same patterns of maturation between adolescence and adulthood."

Taking risks and having thrilling adventures during this period isn't necessarily a bad thing, according to the study.

"You don't have this perfect inhibitory control system in adolescence, but that's happening for a reason," Lunsa said. "It has survived evolution because it's actually allowing for new experiences to provide information about the environment that is critical for optimal specialisation of the brain to occur," she said.

Understanding the neural mechanisms that underlie this transitional period in our primate counterparts is critical to informing us about this period of brain and cognitive maturation, said Luna.


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