Thomas Grisso explains ‘danger zone’ in teen brain on WBUR

By Lisa M. Larson

UMass Medical School Communications

November 05, 2013

Should teenagers accused of murder be tried as adults?

UMass Medical School expert Thomas Grisso, PhD, explained how the brain develops for a WBUR report examining the Massachusetts law requiring anyone age 14 or older charged with murder to be tried in an adult court and face mandatory life without parole if convicted.

“Kids are different. They’re more impulsive. There’s more risk taking. They don’t delay like adults, they don’t stop and think, literally,” Dr. Grisso explained in the WBUR story.

Grisso, professor of psychiatry, director of psychology, and director of the Law-Psychiatry Program at UMMS, has focused his research and teaching on improving forensic evaluations for the courts and informing policy and law for youths in the juvenile justice system and for persons with mental disorders. He is a national leader in the field.

Teens have a surge of activity in the emotional area of the brain, Grisso told WBUR.

“At the same time, the frontal lobe, the one that’s going to delay you and stop and think hasn’t quite developed to an adult capacity,” Grisso said in the report. “And it creates a danger zone, a high-risk area.”

Hear the full report atWBUR: Should Young Murder Suspects Be Tried As Adults?