London, June 4 (ANI): Adolescent brains are biologically wired to engage in risky behavior, according to a new study.
"Our results raise the hypothesis that these risky behaviors, such as experimenting with drugs or having unsafe sex, are actually driven by over activity in the mesolimbic dopamine system, a system which appears to be the final pathway to all addictions, in the adolescent brain," Russell Poldrack, a University of Texas at Austin psychologist, said.
Poldrack collaborated on the study with researchers at UCLA, including Jessica Cohen and Robert Asarnow.
To reach the conclusion, participants ranging in age from eight to 30 performed a learning task in which they categorized an abstract image into one of two categories and were given feedback displaying the correct response. To ensure motivation, they were given monetary rewards for each correct answer.
What the researchers were most interested in, however, was how each participant's brain responded to "reward prediction error" (or the difference between an expected outcome of an action and the actual outcome) as they learned to categorize the images.
"Learning seems to rely on prediction error because if the world is exactly as you expected it to be, there is nothing new to learn," Poldrack said.
The study has been published online in the journal Nature Neuroscience. (ANI)