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Are Teenagers Wired Differently Than Adults?

Parents have long suspected that the brains of their teenagers function differently than those of adults.

With the advent of magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, we have begun to appreciate how the brain continues to develop structurally through adolescence and on into adulthood. High emotionality is a characteristic of adolescents and researchers are trying to understand how ‘emotional areas’ of the brain differ between adults and adolescents.

Scientists from the National Institute of Mental Health, publishing in the November 15th issue of Elsevier’s Biological Psychiatry, have helped to advance our understanding. They studied the amygdala, the major emotional center in the brain, which undergoes structural reorganization during adolescence. To do so, they examined emotional learning in both juvenile and adult mice.

“Our work on the amygdala revealed that the neuronal pathways that carry sensory information to the amygdala directly, bypassing cortex, are more plastic in the juvenile than in adult mice,” explained senior author Alexei Morozov, PhD.

John Krystal, MD, the Editor of Biological Psychiatry, further commented on this work: “Pan and colleagues elegantly describe one developmental ‘switch’ in the regulation of the amygdala. This switch may be one way that the cortex emerges during development as having a greater role in regulating the amygdala and thus, emotional behavior.”

Dr. Morozov concluded that “this finding suggests that emotional behaviors in adolescence are less precise and more irrational because they are driven more by subcortical than by cortical structures.”

Notes to Editors:
The article is “Divergence Between Thalamic and Cortical Inputs to Lateral Amygdala During Juvenile–Adult Transition in Mice” by Bing-Xing Pan, Wataru Ito, and Alexei Morozov. The authors are affiliated with the Unit on Behavioral Genetics, Laboratory of Molecular Pathophysiology, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 66, Issue 10 (November 15, 2009), published by Elsevier.

The authors’ disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available in the article.

John H. Krystal, M.D. is Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and a research psychiatrist at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. His disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available at

Full text of the article mentioned above is available upon request. Contact Jayne M. Dawkins at to obtain a copy or to schedule an interview.

About Biological Psychiatry
This international rapid-publication journal is the official journal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry. It covers a broad range of topics in psychiatric neuroscience and therapeutics. Both basic and clinical contributions are encouraged from all disciplines and research areas relevant to the pathophysiology and treatment of major neuropsychiatric disorders. Full-length and Brief Reports of novel results, Commentaries, Case Studies of unusual significance, and Correspondence and Comments judged to be of high impact to the field are published, particularly those addressing genetic and environmental risk factors, neural circuitry and neurochemistry, and important new therapeutic approaches. Concise Reviews and Editorials that focus on topics of current research and interest are also published rapidly.

Biological Psychiatry is ranked 4th out of the 101 Psychiatry titles and 14th out of 219 Neurosciences titles on the 2008 ISI Journal Citations Reports® published by Thomson Scientific.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a world-leading publisher of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. The company works in partnership with the global science and health communities to publish more than 2,000 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and close to 20,000 book titles, including major reference works from Mosby and Saunders. Elsevier’s online solutions include ScienceDirect, Scopus, Reaxys, MD Consult and Nursing Consult, which enhance the productivity of science and health professionals, and the SciVal suite and MEDai’s Pinpoint Review, which help research and health care institutions deliver better outcomes more cost-effectively.

A global business headquartered in Amsterdam, Elsevier employs 7,000 people worldwide. The company is part of Reed Elsevier Group PLC, a world-leading publisher and information provider, which is jointly owned by Reed Elsevier PLC and Reed Elsevier NV. The ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).

Media Contact:
Jayne M. Dawkins
+215 239 3674

Jayne M. Dawkins | EurekAlert!
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