J Cogn Neurosci. 2013 Feb;25(2):284-96. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00326. Epub 2012 Nov 19.
Neurodevelopmental changes in mesolimbic regions are associated with adolescent risk-taking behavior. Numerous studies have shown exaggerated activation in the striatum in adolescents compared with children and adults during reward processing. However, striatal sensitivity to aversion remains elusive. Given the important role of the striatum in tracking both appetitive and aversive events, addressing this question is critical to understanding adolescent decision-making, as both positive and negative factors contribute to this behavior. In this study, human adult and adolescent participants performed a task in which they received squirts of appetitive or aversive liquid while undergoing fMRI, a novel approach in human adolescents. Compared with adults, adolescents showed greater behavioral and striatal sensitivity to both appetitive and aversive stimuli, an effect that was exaggerated in response to delivery of the aversive stimulus. Collectively, these findings contribute to understanding how neural responses to positive and negative outcomes differ between adolescents and adults and how they may influence adolescent behavior.