Thursday, April 11, 2013
Behavioral Social Neuroscience Seminar
Ontogenetic Changes in the Neural Mechanisms Underlying Motivation, Exploration and Learning: Insights from the Adolescent Brain
Adriana Galvan, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, UCLA, Brain Research Institute
Adolescence is characterized by strong motivational drives and limited behavioral regulation. Converging evidence suggests that this developmental phenotype is governed by distinct neurodevelopmental trajectories in the cognitive and affective systems that underlie these behaviors. By probing these systems under an array of conditions in children, adolescents and adults, we have learned how ontogenetic differences in striatal sensitivity and prefrontal engagement render adolescents more prone to risk-taking, reward seeking and impulsive behavior. In this talk, I will present our work demonstrating heightened striatal sensitivity in adolescents to basic appetitive and aversive stimuli, discuss recent findings showing that the adolescent brain is uniquely sensitive to contextual changes in social, stressful and learning domains, and review these findings within the context of prevailing theories of adolescent behavior and neurodevelopment. In addition, I will explore how neurobiologically-supported increases in motivation and exploration during adolescence facilitate the attainment of autonomy as individuals transition into adulthood.