Chief among those changes is a growth spurt in the prefrontal cortex, which governs planning, mood, and impulse control. Over the course of adolescence, the brain prunes away the excess synapses of that region, allowing the ones that remain to more efficiently process information. In the meantime, these neurological changes leave teens more attracted to risk and less inclined to fully process the consequences of their actions — which, combined with raging hormones, high-school politics and peer pressure, and struggles to assert their independence from their families, can make for a perfect storm of terrible choices. Whether they learn from those choices, though, is another story — and the PLOS study suggests that punishment may not be the best way to help them do it. For the study, 18 teenagers aged 12 to 17 and 20 adults 18 to 32 played a game where they had to choose between two different symbols, using correct choices to rack up as many points as they could.