Limbic changes

The limbic system is a group of deep brain structures mainly involved in emotion and motivation. Their role is to promote survival partly via ‘fight or flight’ mechanisms such as fear. However, it is also involved in pleasure and reward, and the storage of events that elicit strong emotional responses. Structural and functional changes occur during adolescence in these subcortical areas, and hormonal influences on the limbic system are believed to make adolescents more emotionally reactive, sensation-seeking, and risk-taking.

There is some evidence that during adolescence, part of the limbic system increases in volume and reactivity in response to emotion, and becomes more sensitive to factors such as social rejection. This increased activity has been associated with an increased risk of anxiety, depression and behavioural problems. Furthermore, the ‘flexible’ or less developed state of the PFC has been suggested as a risk factor for adolescent mental health problems. There is some suggestion that adolescents may rely more on the emotional parts of their brain to make decisions.


Click on the topics below to find out more about the science in the film.

Sleep      ***      Hormonal Changes      ***      Prefrontal Changes
Inhibitory Control      ***      Mental Time Travel      ***      Limbic Changes
Sensation Seeking       ***       Risk taking       ***       Social Development
Theories of Adolescence      ***     Evolution      ***      Mental Health
Neuroconstructivism      ***     Educational Neuroscience


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