The teenage brain has been characterized as a risk-taking machine, looking for quick rewards and thrills instead of acting responsibly. But these behaviors could actually make teens better than adults at certain kinds of learning.
“In neuroscience, we tend to think that if healthy brains act in a certain way, there should be a reason for it,” says Juliet Davidow, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University in the Affective Neuroscience and Development Lab and the lead author of the study, which was published Wednesday in the journal Neuron.
“Too many people describe the teen brain like it’s a defective car with no steering wheel or brakes, just an accelerator,” says BJ Casey, a cognitive neuroscientist and professor of psychology at Yale who was not involved in the study. “What we need to understand in terms of the adolescent brain is that while there are circumstances get them into trouble, there are also ones in which they excel. This study shows that not only do teens have cognitive capabilities, they’re even better in some situations!”
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