Brains Of Adolescents With Drug And Behavioral Problems May Work Differently

By Staff Writer

Adolescents who regularly find themselves in trouble as a result of making poor decisions or getting involved with drugs may not simply be bad apples. A new study has found their brains respond differently to rewards and punishments, and these individuals need help from treatment centers to learn better decision-making skills.

Researchers from the University of Colorado said that most young people learn to live within society’s rules through repeatedly receiving rewards or punishments for their behavior. However, this function appears to be lacking in the brains of adolescent boys who have repeatedly been in trouble for drugs or behavioral problems.

To investigate the role that the hard-wiring of the brain plays on decision making, researchers analyzed the brain activity of 20 boys, who had been through juvenile justice programs, while they played a game that forced them to make a cautious or risky decision. The results were compared to those of a control group of boys who had no history of bad behavior.

They found that the first group had less activity in an area of the brain that links the potential for reward or punishment to decision making.

It may be important for individuals who have displayed this type of behavior to seek help from treatment centers to address their decision-making ability.