Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

​​​Brain science and neurobehavioral research reveals that the adolescent brain remains a work in progress well into early adulthood.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, researchers have been able to compare the activity of teenage brains to those of adults. The findings show that a child’s brain has less activity in the prefrontal cortex compared to an adult’s, and the prefrontal cortex is the region of the brain responsible for controlling impulses, making judgments and problem solving.

Because that region of gray matter is still developing, adolescents rely more on the amygdala, the emotional part of their brain. This helps to explain why they are more likely to take risks, ignore consequences, be influenced by peers, seek immediate gratification and act impulsively.

Given these biological and neurological differences, juvenile offenders should not automatically be condemned to adult punishment. The method and manner in which adolescents are held accountable should take into consideration their “developing brains” as well as any adverse experiences and traumas (neglect, sexual violence and emotional abuse) that affect psychological development.

At the Boys Town Center for Neurobehavioral Research in Children, groundbreaking work on brain functioning is underway. The goal is to develop best practices to treat behavioral and mental health problems in children, and also serve as a trusted resource for judges and criminal justice leaders seeking appropriate treatments and sentencing options for juvenile offenders.

See the studies that are ongoing at the Center for Neurobehavioral Research.​