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Moodiness in Teens: It`s All in the Brain

moodinessteensbrain2.jpgHaving problems with a moody teen? Mom, Dad, it`s not your fault. It`s all in the teen brain.

An Australian study of 137 adolescents aged 11 to 13 years old showed that their grumbling behavior may be related to the structure of their brains. In this research, the teenagers and their parents were asked to discuss subjects that often lead to disagreements while the behavior of each teen was carefully studied.

Later on, the teens? brains were scanned and the structures were analyzed. The results showed that adolescents with larger amygdalas – the region of the brain that is the center of emotional activities – were moodier and grumpier towards their mothers. The two other regions ? the anterior cingulate and orbitofrontal cortices ? are the ones that control behavior. The connections between the amydgala and these two other regions are not complete until one reaches early twenties. It seems that the amygdala of some teenagers grow rapidly while the other two regions that regulate their behavior are not fully connected resulting in moodiness. Enlarged amygdala was also linked to drug or alcohol abuse and depression in young people.

The researchers also pointed out that environmental factors may also influence the behavioral difficulties of young people. However, they are not sure whether social upbringing also influences brain development of adolescents and whether this will have permanent effect in their behavior later in life.

Whittle, S. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA, 105, 3652-3657 (2008).

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