Middle adolescence is the period of development during which youth begin to engage in health risk behaviors such as delinquent behavior and substance use. A promising mechanism for guiding adolescents away from risky choices is the extent to which adolescents are sensitive to the likelihood of receiving valued outcomes. Few studies have examined longitudinal change in adolescent risky decision making and its neural correlates. To this end, the present longitudinal three-wave study (N w1 = 157, Mw1= 13.50 years; Nw2 = 148, Mw2= 14.52 years; Nw3 = 143, Mw3= 15.55 years) investigated the ontogeny of mid-adolescent behavioral and neural risk sensitivity, and their baseline relations to longitudinal self-reported health risk behaviors. Results showed that adolescents became more sensitive to risk both in behavior and the brain during middle adolescence. Across three years, we observed lower risk-taking and greater risk-related activation in the bilateral insular cortex. When examining how baseline levels of risk sensitivity were related to longitudinal changes in real-life health risk behaviors, we found that Wave 1 insular activity was related to increases in self-reported health risk behaviors over the three years. This research highlights the normative maturation of risk-related processes at the behavioral and neural levels during mid-adolescence.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cognitive Neuroscience