Teens Who Drink, Take Drugs Have More 'Mature' Brains

Teen drinking and drug use is usually viewed as impulsive and immature behavior, but a new study finds that the brains of teens who engage in risky activities actually have brains that are more 'adult-like' than those of their more risk-aversive peers.

Science Daily reported Aug. 26 that researchers using brain imaging technology found that risk-taking teens had more frontal white matter in their brains, a trait typical of adults in their mid-20s. White matter, which connects brain neurons to each other, becomes denser and more organized as the brain matures.

“We were surprised to discover that risk-taking was associated with more highly-developed white matter — a more mature brain,” said researcher Gregory Berns, M.D., Ph.D., of Emory University. “We were also surprised to learn that except for slightly higher scores in risk-taking, there was no significant difference in the maturity of the white matter between males and females.”

The study appear in the Aug. 26, 2009 edition of PLoS One.

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