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Teens can keep their cool to win rewards

Unexpected experimental result suggests young people’s brains can be tamed

The oft-maligned teenage brain is getting some reputation rehab. When offered the incentive of a modest reward in a recent experiment, teens took more time than adults to make a thoughtful, reasoned decision.

That surprising result, presented October 14 at the annual meeting for the Society for Neuroscience, counters the image of a flaky, impulsive adolescent brain, and shows that incentives may be a powerful way to curb reckless behavior. 

“Teenagers are quite capable of waiting, as opposed to reacting impulsively,” said study coauthor BJ Casey of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City at a press briefing.  The result “really flies in the face of some of my previous research and research by other investigators,” she said.

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