6. Research indicates that the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain deeply involved in assessing risks and making complex judgments, is still developing during the adolescent years. Given that, should adolescents have the same rights and be held to the same standards of responsibility as adults? For example, should they be able to consent to sexual activity or join the armed forces? If they commit an offense, should they be tried as adults?
Another important time during our lives when the prefrontal cortex “turns off” a bit is during REM sleep. Consider the role of REM sleep and dreams in your life. Does this “turning off” of the prefrontal cortex substantiate or repudiate Freud’s theory? Frame your response in the language of the course with special attention to current, relevant peer-reviewed research.

In regards to risk taking/complex judgments:
Psychosocial moratorium- A period in which adolescents are given a degree of freedom to explore their impulses, talents, interests, social roles, and beliefs without fear that minor offenses against convention will bring drastic consequences.

Identity exploration- Examining alternatives in a particular area of activity, such as occupation or beliefs and values.

Negative identity- Acting in ways that are guaranteed to arouse disapproval, but that also guarantee attention and concern.

*These definitions are all part of the Identity Chapter (McMahan, 2009, p. 368-369)



Hobson, J. (2009). REM sleep and dreaming: Towards a theory of protoconsciousness. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(11).



Hameroff, S. (2010). The “conscious pilot”—dendritic synchrony moves through the brain to mediate consciousness. Journal of Biological Physics, 36(1), 71-93.




This article gives us a better understanding about the adolescent brain and its development. This may be a good starting point...
Steinberg, L. (2011). Demystifying the adolescent brain. Educational Leadership, 68(7).


This article reviews current research on the development of decision making capabilities of adolescents who are defendants. The article also discusses sociological, psychological, and neurobiological research that factor into adolescent decision making. It also discusses the trend for more severe punishments for juvenile defenders.

Kambam, P., & Thompson, C. (2009). The development of decision-making capacities in children and adolescents: Psychological and neurological perspectives and their implications for juvenile defendants. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 27(2), 173-190. doi:10.1002/bsl.859


From Textbook:

~"Neuroscientists have found evidence that the pleasure center in the limbic system develops more quickly during adolescence than the impulse control systems in the prefrontal cortex. This discrepancy may help explain the fact that teens who should--and generally do--know better take risks that endanger their health, their happiness, and even their lives" (McMahan, 2009, p.92)


Outside Research:

~Steinberg, L. (2009). Should the Science of Adolescent Brain Development Inform Public Policy? American Psychologist, 64(8), 739-750.

This article discusses the changes in brain structure in adolescents and how their brain development should/should not affect public policy.

~Mulvey, E. (2009). Child Offender, Adult Time: Studies profile juveniles serving life prison terms. Characteristics of Juveniles Sentenced to Life.

This article discusses the number of juveniles who are serving life sentences and discusses maturity of brain development.

~Talbot, L., McGlinchey, E., Kaplan, K., Dahl, R., & Harvey, A. (2010). Sleep Deprivation in Adolescents and Adults: Changes in Affect. Emotion, 10(6), 831-841.

This study showed that there were less positive affects when sleep deprived.