The triadic systems model perspective and adolescent risk taking

Brain Cogn. 2014 Aug;89:114-5. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2013.11.001. Epub 2013 Dec 8.


In this special issue, Ernst (2014) outlines the triadic systems model, which focuses on the balanced interaction among three functional neural systems: the prefrontal cortex (regulation/control), striatum (motivation/approach), and amygdala (emotion/avoidance). Asynchrony in maturation timelines, coupled with less mature connectivity across brain regions, is thought to result in unique vulnerabilities for risk taking during the adolescent age period. Yet, the research evidence linking the triadic systems model to differences in risk taking across adolescence and adulthood is equivocal, and few studies have examined how neural development is associated with real-world behavior. In this commentary, we outline research on adolescent risk taking which highlights the importance of considering trait level and situational conditions when examining associations between neural systems and behavior, as well as the need to adopt a lifespan perspective.

Keywords: Adolescent risk taking; Brain development; Lifespan; Social context; Triadic systems model.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent Behavior / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Motivation / physiology*