Year of selection 2013
Institution Universiteit Leiden
Adolescence: Whether it was relatively peaceful or full of teen angst, none of us is likely to forget it. It is a special time in life, when we begin discovering who we might become, exploring the possibilities…and taking all of the risks that accompany experimenting with life! Kiki Zanolie wanted to understand what was happening in the adolescent brain to cause all this risk-taking (and worrying of parents everywhere). As teens, our brains are still developing; in what way, specifically, may hold the answer to that question.
Certain areas of the brain are important for making decisions: one is involved on the emotional level, another in helping us plan our behavior or stop it when it we know it’s harmful. Dr. Zanolie’s work has shown that, during adolescence, the emotional zone has already developed, but its rational counterpart has not. This imbalance could explain why teens in social settings, with emotions fully charged, may make choices they know to be risky. This is a perfectly normal part of growing up, but Dr. Zanolie hopes that, by understanding what adolescents are experiencing and why, we can help them safely navigate their sometimes tumultuous teen years.
Adolescence is a unique moment in life where acceptation from other teenagers becomes important. Dr. Kiki Zanolie is exploring the role played by social status—derived from a group in terms of physical attractiveness and good scores in sports and school — in case of rejection. Her hypothesis is that someone with a low status will react more heavily, often turning to risky behaviors. Zanolie’s findings may contribute to identifying adolescents who are more at risk, allowing for early detection of behavioral problems to improve adolescents’ well-being.
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