Positive Parenting

Positive Parenting: Brain training for risk-taking teens

Call it creative use of paved space on a city college campus. 

Older teens honing their skateboarding skills. Andrew McWilliams goes big if there's an audience. 

It's no surprise to cognitive neuroscientist Jason Chein. Researchers at Temple University's brain research and imaging center monitored teens while performing a computerized stoplight task. 

Teens had to drive a car on a straight stretch of roadway and decide whether or not to stop at a yellow light. The goal was to finish the course as fast as possible, while trying not to crash. 

Researchers used the intercom to tell teens they had friends nearby watching and making predictions about their performance. During the task, researchers saw activation in two regions of the teens' brains that process rewards. 

“In and of itself it says to parents even a good teen, even a smart teen that has good information about their behavior is likely to behave differently when they’re in the presence of their friends or when they think they’re in a social environment," said Chein. 

Temple scientists also had teens aged 13 to 17 complete memory training every day for one month and found those teens took fewer risks when being watched by their peers. 

Chein says it's possible memory training might help teens with self regulation. 

"They're still waiting for their cognitive control systems to come online. But we might be able to give that system a boost," he said. 

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