The Adolescent Brain

The Adolescent Brain is Still Developing

A researcher says that she will pay her teenage daughter $1,000 if she doesn't do any drugs until she is 21.

Why doesn't she want her daughter to NEVER try drugs? She knows that during adolescence the brain is particularly susceptible to lifetime addiction because it is still developing. Furthermore, she understands that adolescence is a risk-taking period during which her daughter is more likely to try drugs. So if she can keep her daughter drug-free during adolescence, her daughter will more than likely stay drug-free for life.

The prefrontal cortex, which handles reasoning, grows during the pre-teen years. But it is pruned back during adolescence, increasing impulsive, risk-taking behavior—and susceptibility to addiction.

Teens who start drinking by age 13 have a 43% chance of becoming alcoholics.

Those who start drinking at 21 have only a 10% chance.


The Adolescent Brain Is Wired for Risk-taking

Adolescence is a risk-taking period during which teens are more likely to try drugs. The part of the brain responsible for reasoning and decision-making becomes less active during this period. Evolutionarily, this change is attributed to the need for offspring to leave the safety of the nest, taking risks to find a life of their own.

Why is the adolescent brain more prone to risk-taking? --Dr. Glen Hanson

90% of smokers started at or before age 18.

Girl Smoking
Photo Credits

For brain images: Pault Thompson, Kiralee Hayashi, Arthur Toga, UCLA/Nitin Gogtay, Jay Giedd, Judy Rapoport/NIMH

APA format:

Genetic Science Learning Center. (2013, August 30) The Adolescent Brain. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from

CSE format:

The Adolescent Brain [Internet]. Salt Lake City (UT): Genetic Science Learning Center; 2013 [cited 2024 Apr 15] Available from

Chicago format:

Genetic Science Learning Center. "The Adolescent Brain." Learn.Genetics. August 30, 2013. Accessed April 15, 2024.