A new study explores how structural connections in the teen brain influence decision-making processes. When asked if they wanted €20 right away or €50 in a month, many young respondents opted for the immediate gratification. The study revealed that the connections between the two main brain areas involved in decision-making processes are not yet as developed as they are in the adult brain. One of the areas, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, is activated when planning for the future and the other, the striatum, is linked to the brain's reward system. Since the connections between these two areas are not as developed as in the adult brain, the influence of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex on the striatum is restricted, leading teenagers to be more prone to impulsive behaviour and choosing immediate rewards over future rewards. “It’s not that adolescents don’t plan for the future at all. But when they make decisions, they focus much more on the here and now. Adolescence is a training ground for the brain. Although it’s more difficult for adolescents to decide against short-term rewards, they are capable of doing so,” said lead researcher Wouter van den Bos.
Inside the Teenage Brain