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What Makes Teens Do What They Do?

“What are they Thinking: The Straight facts about the risk taking, social networking, still developing teen brain” by Aaron M. White and Scott Swartzwelder
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc
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While the verdict has long been out that adolescents are irrational and impulsive, recent research has shown that hormones are not the primary culprit for this behavior; the brain is also at fault. What is going on, as Aaron White explained on “The State of Things,” is that “The brain undergoes a shift from having behavior driven by emotion --  that’s at the front end of adolescence -- to having the brain make decisions based on processing and foresight.White is co-author of the book “What Are They Thinking: The Straight Facts about the Risk-Taking, Social-Networking, Still-Developing Teen Brain,” (W.W. Norton & Company/2013).  He works for the National Institutes of Health. Before that, he was an assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center.He said that although changes in the brain and the resulting effects could be destructive, they are important for an individual’s development. “We’re built to be risky," he said. "The brain is built to learn. During adolescence, you know, we’re supposed to push away from our families, go out and explore, take some chances, and allow the brain to be molded like crazy by those experiences because the brain assumes that whatever is going on during adolescence this must be vital stuff for survival for the rest of one’s life…”However, there are more questions regarding this tumultuous period. “Perhaps because life is lasting longer for us and because of the economic sort of security we have, you know, we’re not quite sure why, but adolescence itself is stretching," he said.

Alex Granados joined The State of Things in July 2010. He got his start in radio as an intern for the show in 2005 and loved it so much that after trying his hand as a government reporter, reader liaison, features, copy and editorial page editor at a small newspaper in Manassas, Virginia, he returned to WUNC. Born in Baltimore but raised in Morgantown, West Virginia, Alex moved to Raleigh in time to do third grade twice and adjust to public school after having spent years in the sheltered confines of a Christian elementary education. Alex received a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also has a minor in philosophy, which basically means that he used to think he was really smart but realized he wasn’t in time to switch majors. Fishing, reading science fiction, watching crazy movies, writing bad short stories, and shooting pool are some of his favorite things to do. Alex still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up, but he is holding out for astronaut.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.