Adolescent brain development in normality and psychopathology

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Since this journal's inception, the field of adolescent brain development has flourished, as researchers have investigated the underpinnings of adolescent risk-taking behaviors. Explanations based on translational models initially attributed such behaviors to executive control deficiencies and poor frontal lobe function. This conclusion was bolstered by evidence that the prefrontal cortex and its interconnections are among the last brain regions to structurally and functionally mature. As substantial heterogeneity of prefrontal function was revealed, applications of neuroeconomic theory to adolescent development led to dual systems models of behavior. Current epidemiological trends, behavioral observations, and functional magnetic resonance imaging based brain activity patterns suggest a quadratic increase in limbically mediated incentive motivation from childhood to adolescence and a decline thereafter. This elevation occurs in the context of immature prefrontal function, so motivational strivings may be difficult to regulate. Theoretical models explain this patterning through brain-based accounts of subcortical-cortical integration, puberty-based models of adolescent sensation seeking, and neurochemical dynamics. Empirically sound tests of these mechanisms, as well as investigations of biology-context interactions, represent the field's most challenging future goals, so that applications to psychopathology can be refined and so that developmental cascades that incorporate neurobiological variables can be modeled.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1325-1345
Number of pages21
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number4 PART 2
StatePublished - Nov 2013


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