Associations between peer attachment and neural correlates of risk processing across adolescence


Adolescence is a period of increased risk-taking behavior where individual differences in risk taking may relate to both adverse and positive experiences with peers. Yet, knowledge on how risk processing develops in the adolescent brain and whether this development is related to peer attachment is limited. In this longitudinal functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we collected data from 167 adolescents (53% male) followed for four annual assessments across ages 13-17 years. At each assessment, participants completed a lottery choice task to assess neural risk processing and reported on their perceived attachment to peers and parents. Behaviorally, risk-preference on the lottery choice task decreased linearly with age. Neural activation during risk processing was consistently found in the insula and dACC across the four assessments and increased linearly from ages 13-17 years. Furthermore, higher peer attachment was related to greater right insula risk processing for males but not for females, even after controlling for parental attachment. The magnitudes of this association did not change with age. Findings demonstrate that neural risk processing shows maturation across adolescence and high peer attachment may be associated with low risk taking by heightening neural sensitivity to potential risks for male adolescents.



Peer attachment, Risk taking, Insula, Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, fMRI, Adolescence