journal neuron

The teenage brain has been characterized as a risk-taking machine, looking for quick rewards and thrills instead of acting responsibly. But these behaviors could actually make teens better than adults at certain kinds of learning.

“In neuroscience, we tend to think that if healthy brains act in a certain way, there should be a reason for it,” says Juliet Davidow, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University in the Affective Neuroscience and Development Lab and the lead author of the study, which was published last week in the journal Neuron.

But scientists and the public often focus on the negatives of teen behavior, so she and her colleagues set out to test the hypothesis that teenagers’ drive for rewards, and the risk-taking that comes from it, exist for a reason.

Teens’ Penchant For Risk-Taking May Help Them Learn Faster

Illustration: Luciano Lozano/Getty Images

We know we should put the cigarettes away or make use of that gym membership but in the moment, we just don’t do it. There is a cluster of neurons in our brain critical for motivation, though. What if you could hack them to motivate yourself?

These neurons are located in the middle of the brain, in a region called the ventral tegmental area. A paper published Thursday in the journal Neuron suggests that we can activate the region with a little bit of training.

Could You Hack Your Brain To Get More Motivated?

Illustration: Gary Waters/Getty Images/Ikon Images