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Minerva Pediatrica 2016 April;68(2):148-51


language: English

Adolescence, imperceptible boundary between normality and pathology: a literature review

Domenico BOVE 1, Rocco M. BOVE 1, 2, Stefano CACCAVALE 1, Carmela BRAVACCIO 3, Maria MARINO 1, Maddalena LA MONTAGNA 4

1 Department of Physical and Mental Health and Preventive Medicine, Second University of Naples, Naples, Italy; 2 Association Fusis for Research and Training in Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, Alvignano, Caserta, Italy; 3 Department of Paediatrics, Federico II University, Naples, Italy; 4 Department of Neuroscience, Reproductive Science and Odontostomatology, Federico II University, Naples, Italy


A reorganization of the brain occurs in adolescence and it is documented by neuroimaging, neurophysiology and pathology of development. The high levels of neural plasticity allow the intellectual and emotional development during adolescence, a transition period of life full of physical and psychological changes. However, potentially dangerous agents could be the genesis of psychopathology of the adult and mental illness or distress. Adolescence is a crucial phase for the maturation of the brain. Therefore, future research should study how the environment affects and influences the function and the organization of the brain. Teenagers look for new experiences and strong emotions, sometimes endangering their health. Neuroscientific explanations have been proposed for the typical teenagers’ behavior. In the postnatal period the highest density of gray matter can be found in the primary sensorimotor cortex, while prefrontal cortex matures later. Subcortical areas of the brain, especially the limbic system and the reward system, develop earlier; therefore, there is an imbalance between the more mature subcortical areas and the less mature prefrontal areas during adolescence. This could explain the typical behavior patterns of this period of life.

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