Why do adolescents love taking risks?

Adolescence, which starts at the onset of puberty and is now considered to go on till mid 20s, is usually considered a potentially troublesome age. Research bears this out – reckless driving, social media indiscretion, dangerous YOLO dares, crime, binge drinking, unintended pregnancies, attempted suicides and drug abuse incidence can all happen at this age. Everyone concerned is happy if the adolescent makes it through unscathed!

No doubt adolescence is a period of vulnerability but it is also a period of great opportunity and celebration. After infancy it is the second period of heightened brain plasticity. Psychology tells us that sensation seeking, high risk taking and penchant for novelty – hallmarks of this age, can be channeled into challenging the status quo and bring forth hyper innovation. And neuroscience is telling us that the way the brain remodels during adolescence – decrease in grey matter because of synaptic pruning and increase in white matter due to myelination changes the generalist, soak-it-all-in pre-puberty brain into a brain capable of becoming a super specialist, be it sports, music, art or academics.

In our new series, for the next few weeks, we will be explaining with simple visuals, how to make the most of the adolescent brain. We start with understanding why an adolescent cannot resist taking risks.