In the current study differences in
In the current study, differences in THZ1 Hydrochloride Supplier activity and precuneus functional connectivity were observed based on adolescents’ level of sexual risk behavior specifically, rather than their general engagement in risky behavior. This finding may be due to several unique aspects of adolescent sexual risk behavior. Specifically, sexual risk-taking is inherently interpersonal and influenced by a powerful combination of heightened interoceptive physiologic experiences (e.g. sexual arousal), personal traits (e.g. sensation-seeking), social goals (e.g. motivation for an intimate connection), and environmental cues (e.g. the presence of a potential sexual partner) which in combination may overwhelm adolescents’ still-developing capacity for behavioral control (Victor and Hariri, 2016). The current findings underscore the importance of considering the intersection of interpersonal and biological factors in adolescents’ sexual risk behavior. The association between brain and behavior is likely to be bidirectional, and the present results should be interpreted with the understanding that a specific pattern of neural response to social reward is likely not a causal mechanism for risky sexual behavior. That is, heightened response to social reward does not necessarily motivate risky sexual behavior. However, one could speculate that the factors underlying the neural response among higher sexual risk youth, including sensitivity to peer feedback or sexual desire arising from peer attractiveness, influence the function of reward and affective neural circuits, such that sexual risk evaluation is biased towards immediate sexual rewards over long-term health. As non-human primate studies have indicated, brain function changes as a result of sexual experiences and contact (Olsen, 2011; Staffend et al., 2014). The effects of sexual experience could have both adaptive and maladaptive consequences at many levels, including function in endocrine systems, development of brain structure, and sensitivity of brain function. For example, reward from engaging in less-risky romantic and/or sexual activity may be advantageous in developing the ability to make safer decisions, develop intimacy in relationships, and establish a positive sexual identity (for reviews, see Harden, 2014; Tolman and McClelland, 2011). Indeed, adolescents’ engagement in sexual intercourse per se does not increase the risk of maladaptive outcomes (see Harden, 2014). However, the neurodevelopmental and behavioral balance between typically developing and safe experiences versus risky experiences remains unclear and underscores the critical need for research distinguishing between sexual risk behavior and broader sexual behavior. Further neurodevelopmental research aimed at understanding differences in the motivation for, initiation and practice of healthy sexual behavior—as well as their neural mechanisms—is essential for understanding and promoting adolescent health, including sexual health. The involvement of reward and socioaffective processing regions with risky sexual experience provides support for promising treatment interventions. Studies of adolescents engaging in intervention programs promoting sexual health have demonstrated that interventions utilizing an interpersonal approach have been shown to reduce risk behaviors (Johnson et al., 2011; Petrova and Garcia-Retamero, 2015). Successful interpersonal interventions, including those that focus on skills such as assertiveness, refusal strategies based on personal sexual values, negotiation, and effective parent-youth communication, are often implemented in a social context with peers or parents (Fish et al., 2014; Jemmott et al., 1999; Rolleri et al., 2011). The present results underscore the importance of practicing skill-based strategies supporting healthy sexual behavior in a positive (e.g. rewarding) social environment. Given that culture and community are important aspects of social context, it is notable that these programs have particular benefit when being tailored towards specific communities (Goesling et al., 2014).