The Adolescent Period of Neurocognitive Maturation

Beatriz Luna

The adolescent period of development is unique as it propels the maturation to adulthood. It is characterized behaviorally by peaks in sensation seeking that can lead to risk taking undermining survival. This is also a time when the emergence of major psychopathology occurs such as mood disorders, schizophrenia, and substance use disorders. This profile is underlied by important neurobiological changes as the brain adapts, specializes, and solidifies adapting to its genetic make-up and environmental demands establishing adult trajectories. Adolescence is misunderstood as a time when prefrontal executive systems may not be on line precipitating their limitations in decision making within the context of increased reward seeking motivation. We propose a model in where adolescence is viewed as a time when adult level executive function is available but driven by heightened reward motivation supporting an adaptive process of specialization. Neuroimaging studies that probe neurocognitive and reward processing through development will be presented characterizing how neurocognitive development is underlied by specialization of existing brain processes across a wide variety of domains, including stabilization of brain function, modification of structural and functional connectivity, and dopaminergic processing. Evidence for neurodevelopmental specialization will be presented through current findings using fMRI, DTI, MEG, and PET.


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Δημοκρίτειο Πανεπιστήμιο Θράκης
Σχολή Επιστημών Αγωγής

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Ελληνική Ψυχολογική Εταιρεία



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