Adolescent Transformations of Behavioral and Neural Processes as Potential Targets for Prevention

Dana Eldreth, Michael G. Hardin, Nevia Pavletic, Monique Ernst

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Adolescence is a transitional period in development that is marked by a distinct, typical behavioral profile of high rates of exploration, novelty-seeking, and emotional lability. While these behaviors generally assist the adolescent transition to independence, they can also confer vulnerability for excessive risk-taking and psychopathology, particularly in the context of specific environmental or genetic influences. As prevention research depends on the identification of targets of vulnerability, the following review will discuss the interplay among motivational systems including reward-related, avoidance-related, and regulatory processes in typical and atypical adolescent development. Each set of processes will be discussed in relation to their underlying neural correlates and distinct developmental trajectories. Evidence suggests that typical adolescent behavior and the risk for atypical development are mediated by heightened adolescent responsiveness of reward-related and avoidance-related systems under specific conditions, concurrent with poor modulation by immature regulatory processes. Finally, we will propose strategies to exploit heightened reward processing to reinforce inhibitory control, which is an essential component of regulatory processes in prevention interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-266
Number of pages10
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 13 2013


  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Development
  • Neuroimaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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