Objective: To reduce rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancy among adolescents, it is critical to investigate brain connectivity that may underlie adolescents' sexual health decision-making in the context of intercourse. This study explored relationships between adolescent condom use frequency and the brain's resting-state functional connectivity, to identify differential patterns of social-affective processing among sexually active youth. Methods: In this study, N = 143 sexually active adolescents (68.5% male, Mage = 16.2 years, SD = 1.06) completed magnetic resonance imaging and reported past 3-month frequency of condom use. Resting-state connectivity, seeded on a social region of the brain, the temporoparietal junction (TPJ), was assessed to determine its correspondence with protected sex (condom use). Results: Condom use was associated with positive connectivity between the left TPJ and bilateral inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). This relationship was observed in adolescent males only; no connectivity differences were observed with adolescent females. Conclusions: This study reflects functional synchrony between nodes of the “social brain,” including the TPJ, and a region of planfulness and control, the IFG. The relationship between these regions suggests that adolescents who have more coordinated systems of communication between these critical components of the brain are more likely to be successful in planning and engaging in safer sexual decision-making; for young males, this differentiated more frequent from less frequent condom use. In turn, interventions designed to reduce STIs/human immunodeficiency virus may benefit from targeting social-planfulness dimensions to help youth implement safer sex behaviors.
- Brain connectivity
- Condom use
- HIV risk
- Sexual behavior
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology