There’s only one problem: science shows that adolescents simply don’t have the brains to use condoms. Literally. According to virtually all scientific studies concerning adolescent neural mechanisms, teens are biologically incapable of inhibiting risky behavior. “(T])e major sources of death and disability in adolescence are related to difficulties in the control of behavior and emotion,” explains Ronald E. Dahl, Staunton Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Although adolescents’ brains have developed enough to allow them the capacity to reason better than children, adolescents are biologically driven toward risky behavior and sensation-seeking by their functionally mature limbic systems. And the part of the brain that generally controls such risky behavior -- the prefrontal cortex -- is not yet fully developed. In other words, despite the fact that teenagers are smart enough to recognize the dangers of risky behavior, their brains ignore the risks when things get hot. Thus, teenagers are morons.More on this from EurekAlert!:
Researchers at the University of Illinois have found that adolescence is a time of remodeling in the prefrontal cortex, a brain structure dedicated to higher functions such as planning and social behaviors...This reinforces my notion that the voting age should be increased to 25.
Earlier studies in humans have found gradual reductions in the volume of the prefrontal cortex from adolescence to adulthood, said psychology professor and principal investigator Janice M. Juraska. "But the finding that neurons are actually dying is completely new. This indicates that the brain reorganizes in a very fundamental way in adolescence..."
These findings challenge current models of brain development by showing that some parts of the brain are still being organized well after puberty.
"We always think that having more neurons is better, and it might not be," Juraska said. In some stages of early child development up to half of the neurons in some brain regions are lost. The pruning away of unneeded or disruptive neural circuits appears to be as important to development as the growing of new neural connections, Juraska said.
Although other researchers had seen reductions in the size of the cortex, "no one thought neurons were lost, unless some terrible thing were happening," Juraska said. "Now we are seeing that some major changes are occurring in adolescence that no one has suspected."