Adolescents who take risks, whether human or not, is needed to learn independence from parents and self-exploration.
Athough risk-taking behavior could be beneficial for adolescents, however, if this type of attribute reaches excessive levels, the chances for serious harm and death increases.
Dangerous behavior can include substance abuse, unsafe sex, reckless driving, among other things, which may result in jail time or even premature death, according to a study published by Current Biology.
Researchers believe that this specific type of behavior is likely caused by a brain imbalance in two areas including the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the nucleus accumbens (NAC).
The imbalance is associated with low activity in the PCF, while the NAC initiates high levels of activity, as researchers noted.
To test this imbalance theory, researchers utilized a chemogenetic approach, known as Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDs).
As PsyPost wrote, with the DREADDs researchers were able to:
“Remotely control the activity of brain cells by temporarily turning cells off or on in a region for a short period of time, by injecting a virus that transfers genes for a synthetic receptor, which is only responsive to a synthetic drug that is also administered through a simple injection, which turns brain cells off or on temporarily.”
Researchers decided to use adult rats to test out this imbalance theory.
Evidence is strong which suggests adolescents have a higher chance of engaging in risky behavior than pre-adolescents or adults.
But as the senior author of the study, David J. Bucci puts it, “Our hope is that these findings will inform new means to minimize the potential for engaging in drug use and other harmful behaviors during this important period of development.”