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"Angst-Giving" -- The Discovery Files

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It is better to give than to receive--at least if you're an adolescent and you enjoy giving, suggests a study conducted by researchers at UCLA and the University of Illinois at Urbana.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Social 'medicine.'

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

Adolescence--that really awkward, really awesome time of heightened risk-taking. According to researchers at the University of Illinois and UCLA, it's also a time when symptoms of depression increase as well.

The focus of their study was the adolescent brain. (Sound effect: mix of half-pipe sounds, tech, brain synapses at lightning speed in BG) Specifically, ventral striatum (ven-trahl stri+ ay tum)--a brain region that regulates feelings of pleasure in response to rewards. During teen years activity here is really ratcheted up. Pleasure of rewards is intense.

(Sound effect: FMRI sound) Using a functional brain scan, the researchers were able to measure activity in the ventral striatum of young people engaged in tasks that involved either giving money to others, keeping it, or taking financial risks in hopes of earning a reward. The subjects' state of depression was also measured at the beginning and end of the one-year study.

Young people whose ventral striatum activity showed they got more pleasure when involved in altruistic, pro-social behavior showed declines in depression. Those whose brains showed they got a bigger thrill from taking risks had increases in depressive symptoms over time. The findings could lead to new approaches for dealing with teen depression.

Looks like when it comes to depression, it might be better, to give than to concede.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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