Longitudinal changes in prefrontal cortex activation underlie declines in adolescent risk taking

Yang Qu, Adriana Galvan, Andrew J. Fuligni, Matthew D. Lieberman, Eva H. Telzer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Adolescence is a critical developmental phase during which risk-taking behaviors increase across a variety of species, raising the importance of understanding how brain changes contribute to such behaviors. While the prefrontal cortex is thought to influence adolescent risk taking, the specific ways in which it functions are unclear. Using longitudinal functional magnetic resonance imaging in human adolescents, we found that ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) activation decreased during an experimental risk-taking task over time, with greater declines in VLPFC associated with greater declines in self-reported risky behavior. Furthermore, greater decreases in functional coupling between the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and ventral striatum over time were associated with decreases in self-reported risky behavior. Thus, disparate roles of the VLPFC and MPFC modulate longitudinal declines in adolescent risk taking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11308-11314
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number32
StatePublished - Aug 12 2015


  • Adolescence
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Risk taking
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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