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Expanding neurobiological models of adolescence - threat learning, extinction and cortical plasticity

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The host for this talk is Amy Milton

Is adolescent behaviour primarily driven by an exaggerated responsiveness to rewarding outcomes? Do adolescents take more risks due to difficulty in avoiding harm? How did they respond to a global threat like the Covid-19 pandemic? These are the questions which will be explored in this presentation, where together we will embark on a journey through the brain regions critical for regulating appropriate approach-avoidance behaviours, and observing how they evolve during development. The focus will centre on translational tasks utilised in our laboratory, along with EEG , including Pavlovian fear conditioning, extinction, and active and passive avoidance paradigms. I will share key findings from our research, revealing significant differences between adolescents and adults in their capacity to enhance early visual processing when exposed to learned danger signals. Furthermore, I will endeavour to integrate and discuss the implications of these findings. This involves challenging the prevailing notion that adolescents are less motivated or less capable of learning from negative outcomes. I will also discuss how our research influences current neurobiological models of adolescence, shedding light on this crucial phase of development. Additionally, I will explore how our findings shed light on why some adolescents are more vulnerable to experiencing reduced well-being and an increased likelihood of developing mental health disorders.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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