Chapter 3: Neurobiology of Teen Brain Development and the Digital Age

This chapter focuses on the development of the frontal lobe and its role in impulse control and decision-making. Addictive behaviors are more likely to occur during the teen years, before the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex has matured. The frontal lobe has been shown to inhibit more emotional, less thoughtful outbursts and balance the sensitivity to reward from the ventral striatum, while aiding in memory and the learning of new skills. As teens engage in gaming, social media, and other digital technologies that reinforce reward pathways, these media effectively override the frontal lobe, and addictive behavior becomes more prevalent.

Jennifer T. Sneider is an Associate Neuroscientist in the Neurodevelopmental Laboratory on Addictions and Mental Health, McLean Hospital, and Instructor, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School. She earned a PhD in Psychology from the University of Connecticut. Dr. Sneider’s primary area of focus is the hippocampus, and accordingly, has amassed diverse research experiences using rodent and human models of hippocampal-based learning and memory. Dr. Sneider has received funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to apply neuroimaging techniques to explore the role of the hippocampus in marijuana dependence. She also collaborates on studies in healthy teens and binge drinking emerging adults. Dr. Sneider has a particular interest in characterizing sex differences and the role of the menstrual cycle on memory function in these populations. She recently received a Young Investigator Award from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, which will investigate neurobiological correlates of depression in women.

Marisa M. Silveri is a Neuroscientist and Director of the Neurodevelopmental Laboratory on Addictions and Mental Health at McLean Hospital, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Silveri has devoted the past two decades to characterizing the development of the adolescent brain, probing the influence of alcohol and drug use and abuse on brain development and function, and identifying neurobiological underpinnings associated with mental illness. She receives funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and was awarded the Research Society on Alcoholism’s Young Investigator Award. Dr. Silveri also devotes significant effort to community outreach, translating neuroscience into tips for helping teens navigate the second decade of life. These efforts increase public awareness about adolescent brain vulnerabilities, and the importance of discouraging adolescent alcohol and drug use and identifying early indicators of psychiatric illness.



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