Beyond simple models of self-control to circuit-based accounts of adolescent behavior
Adolescence is the transition from childhood to adulthood that begins around the onset of puberty and ends with relative independence from the parent. This developmental period is one when an individual is probably stronger, of higher reasoning capacity, and more resistant to disease than ever before, yet when mortality rates increase by 200%. These untimely deaths are not due to disease but to preventable deaths associated with adolescents putting themselves in harm's way (e.g., accidental fatalities). We present evidence that these alarming health statistics are in part due to diminished self-control--the ability to inhibit inappropriate desires, emotions, and actions in favor of appropriate ones. Findings of adolescent-specific changes in self-control and underlying brain circuitry are considered in terms of how evolutionarily based biological constraints and experiences shape the brain to adapt to the unique intellectual, physical, sexual, and social challenges of adolescence.