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Author Notes:

E-mail: gberns@emory.edu

Conceived and designed the experiments: GSB SM CMC.

Performed the experiments: SM.

Analyzed the data: GSB SM.

Wrote the paper: GSB.

We are grateful to Helen Mayberg and Jan Engelmann for comments on this manuscript.

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Research Funding:

Funded by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA016434 and R01 DA20116 to G.S.B.).

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Adolescent Engagement in Dangerous Behaviors Is Associated with Increased White Matter Maturity of Frontal Cortex


Journal Title:



Volume 4, Number 8


, Pages e6773-None

Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


Background Myelination of white matter in the brain continues throughout adolescence and early adulthood. This cortical immaturity has been suggested as a potential cause of dangerous and impulsive behaviors in adolescence. Methodology/Principal Findings We tested this hypothesis in a group of healthy adolescents, age 12–18 (N = 91), who underwent diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to delineate cortical white matter tracts. As a measure of real-world risk taking, participants completed the Adolescent Risk Questionnaire (ARQ) which measures engagement in dangerous activities. After adjusting for age-related changes in both DTI and ARQ, engagement in dangerous behaviors was found to be positively correlated with fractional anisotropy and negatively correlated with transverse diffusivity in frontal white matter tracts, indicative of increased myelination and/or density of fibers (ages 14–18, N = 60). Conclusions/Significance The direction of correlation suggests that rather than having immature cortices, adolescents who engage in dangerous activities have frontal white matter tracts that are more adult in form than their more conservative peers.

Copyright information:

© Berns et al.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
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