Questions for “Search for ‘rewards’ is big driver in remodeling a teen’s brain”

Teenagers may take bigger risks than younger children and adults. Changes in their brains help explain this behavior.

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To accompany feature “Search for ‘rewards’ is big driver in remodeling a teen’s brain


Before Reading:

1. As you and your friends have begun transitioning from kids to adults, what changes have you noticed in your bodies?

2. The behaviors of adolescents also undergo changes, beginning around the time of puberty. What differences in moods, decisions, energy level or other things have begun to distinguish you from when you were a younger kid? What do you think might be driving these differences?

During Reading:

1.  What is the balloon test and what does it attempt to measure?

2.  What did brain scans of teens taking this test show in terms of how they differ from younger kids and adults?

3.  What point is Anna van Duijvenvoorde trying to make when she likens the teen brain to a very strong engine?

4.  What are neurons and how many of them are in the typical human brain?

5.  What is dopamine and how does it relay messages in the brain? How do dopamine levels vary in response to “rewards?”

6.  What is the “final developmental push” during adolescence to make the dopamine system more mature?

7.  Why is Bart Larsen looking at iron in the brain? What does he hope it might tell him?

8.  What are axons? Why are they important for neurons?

9.  What is synaptic pruning? How does that pruning help the brain?

10. What do preliminary studies suggest about the changing role of hormones during puberty and the brain’s maturation?

After Reading:

1.  Drawing on what you’ve read in this story, which changes to the teen brain might make you vulnerable in your actions or in your relationships with people? Which may help move you along a path to independence and adulthood? Can you think of any changes that may do both?

2.  How might an event that occurs during adolescence have lifelong effects on the brain? Use evidence from the story to support your answer.