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Brain thickness provides insight into teenage decision-making

Thinner cortex is associated with more impulsive decision-making

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: Lower cortical thickness is associated with impulsive choice in specific brain networks that are important for decision-making. view more 

Credit: Pehlivanova et al., JNeurosci (2018)

Young adults with thinner cortex in particular brain regions are more impulsive during a decision-making task than teens with thicker cortex, according to a large correlational study of adolescents from the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort. The results, published in JNeurosci, suggest that individual differences in brain structure could be used to identify youth at higher risk of making dangerous choices.

In a previous study of adults, cortical thickness was found to be associated with a preference for small, immediate rewards over larger, delayed rewards. This trait, known as delay discounting, is a measure of impulsivity that reflects the decreasing value of a reward the longer it takes to receive it.

Marieta Pehlivanova, Joseph Kable, Theodore Satterthwaite and colleagues studied whether this relationship between cortical thickness and reward preference holds true for teens, whose brains are undergoing dramatic structural changes. The researchers analyzed behavioral and neuroimaging data collected from 427 boys and girls (ages 9.3-24.3) who made hypothetical choices between receiving smaller amounts of money immediately or larger sums up to six months later. The thickness of 19 structural brain networks, which included regions involved in value-based decision-making, was related to the degree of delay discounting, with a thinner cortex associated with greater delay discounting. Cortical thickness predicted teens' delay discounting above and beyond cognitive and demographic variables, such as mother's level of education.

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Article: Diminished Cortical Thickness is Associated with Impulsive Choice in Adolescence

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2200-17.2018

Corresponding author: Theodore Satterthwaite (Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA), sattertt@upenn.edu

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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