July 27, 2007
Better Connected Brains More Resistant To Peer Pressure?

Is susceptibility to peer pressure identifiable in adolescents using brain scans? ("but mom, my weak brain connections made it impossible for me to say no")

WASHINGTON, DC July 26, 2007 Brain regions that regulate different aspects of behavior are more interconnected in children with high resistance to peer influence than those with low resistance, according to a new study published in the July 25 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

"These findings may help develop more effective strategies to prevent the development of lifestyles of violence and crime, says John Sweeney, PhD, Director of the Center for Cognitive Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Sweeney was not involved in this study.

In the new study, Tomas Paus, MD, PhD, at the University of Nottingham, and his colleagues used functional neuroimaging to scan adolescents while they watched video clips of neutral or angry hand and face movements. Previous research has shown that anger is the most easily recognized emotion.

Paus and his team observed 35 10-year-olds with high and low resistance to peer influence, as determined by a questionnaire. The researchers then showed the children video clips of angry hand movements and angry faces and measured their brain activity. They found that the brains of all children showed activity in regions important for planning and extracting information about social cues from movement, but the connectivity between these regions was stronger in children who were marked as less vulnerable to peer influence. These children were also found to have more activity in the prefrontal cortex, an area important for decision making and inhibition of socially inappropriate behavior.

Do stronger connections between these brain regions form as these children with weaker connections get older? Or perhaps do they remain more susceptible to peer pressure?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 July 27 12:03 AM  Brain Development

michael vassar said at July 27, 2007 4:29 AM:

I wonder... what do alcohol and other intoxicants do about this?

Reality Czech said at July 27, 2007 11:34 AM:

Could this be a quantifiable measure of maturity?  Amazing.

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