Teen Brain May Be Wired for Moodiness
Brain Changes Might Make for Cranky Teen Behavior
Feb. 25, 2008 -- Know a moody teen who can argue with you endlessly? Changes in the teen brain may be egging them on.
New research shows that when teens and parents tackle touchy topics, the teen brain may affect how long and hard the teen argues.
One particular area of the brain -- the amygdala, which is involved in fear and emotions -- stood out.
In the study, 137 Australian adolescents aged 11 to 13 spent 20 minutes talking with their mom or dad about a source of conflict, such as lying or talking back to parents. The researchers videotaped and analyzed the discussions.
The adolescents also got their brains scanned using magnetic resonance imaging. Those brain scans weren't done while the adolescents were talking with their parents.
Among the adolescents, those who spent more time talking aggressively with their parents about conflict tended to have bigger amygdalas. And during those discussions, boys (but not girls) with asymmetries in certain other parts of the brain tended to be more anxious and whiny.
The brain is still maturing during the teen years. But it's not clear whether big amygdalas or brain asymmetries cause teens to argue aggressively, note the researchers. They included psychologist Sarah Whittle, PhD, at Australia's University of Melbourne. Whittle specializes in youth mental health.
The study appears in this week's online early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.