The storm and stress of adolescence: insights from human imaging and mouse genetics

Dev Psychobiol. 2010 Apr;52(3):225-35. doi: 10.1002/dev.20447.


The characterization of adolescence as a time of "storm and stress" remains an open debate. Intense and frequent negative affect during this period has been hypothesized to explain the increased rates of affective disorders, suicide, and accidental death during this time of life. Yet some teens emerge from adolescence with minimal turmoil. We provide a neurobiological model of adolescence that proposes an imbalance in the development of subcortical limbic (e.g., amygdala) relative to prefrontal cortical regions as a potential mechanism for heightened emotionality during this period. Empirical support for this model is provided from recent behavioral and human imaging studies on the development of emotion regulation. We then provide examples of environmental factors that may exacerbate imbalances in amygdala-ventrofrontal function increasing risk for anxiety related behaviors. Finally we present data from human and mouse studies to illustrate how genetic factors may enhance or diminish this risk. Together, these studies provide a converging methods approach for understanding the highly variable stress and turmoil experienced in adolescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adolescent Development
  • Age Factors
  • Amygdala / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Emotions
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mice
  • Models, Neurological
  • Mood Disorders / genetics*
  • Mood Disorders / pathology
  • Mood Disorders / psychology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment
  • Stress, Psychological / genetics
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Suicide / psychology