Brain Connectivity Linked to Susceptibility to Peer Pressure

Author:  Falishia Sloan

Institution:  Eastern Virginia Medical School
Date:  July 2007

Children who are more resistant to peer influence have a higher level of interconnectivity in the regions of their brains that control certain behaviors, according to a study published July 25 in The Journal of Neuroscience.

"This is important if we are to understand how the adolescent brain attains the right balance between acknowledging the influences of others and maintaining one's independence," said Tomas Paus, MD, PhD of the University of Nottingham, the lead author of the study.

The researchers studied 35 ten-year-olds whose resistance to peer influence was classified as either high or low, as predetermined by a questionnaire. The children were shown angry hand and facial movement, and their brain activity was measured using functional neuroimaging.

The researchers found that the brain regions involved in planning and extracting information about social cues from movement were active in all of the children, but the children with a higher resistance to peer influence had stronger connectivity in these regions. In addition, more activity in the brain area responsible for making decisions and deciding against behaving badly, the prefrontal cortex, was observed in the children with a higher resistance to peer influence.

"These findings may help develop more effective strategies to prevent the development of lifestyles of violence and crime," said John Sweeney, PhD, Director of the Center for Cognitive Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who was not involved in the study.

Written by Falishia Sloan