Rahman wins big at International Science Fair

BROOKINGS – Brookings High School senior Kashfia Rahman has once again earned recognition from the International Science and Engineering Fair, which is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition that sees about 1,800 high school students competing every year.

Rahman’s project, “The Dynamics of Habituation: A Neural Study of the Effects of Repeated Exposures to Risky Behaviors on Cognitive Control and Emotional Responses in the Adolescent Brain,” examined through tests the dangers of repeated risky behaviors on adolescent brains and provides empirical evidence that shows the association of repeated risk taking, blunt negative emotional responses and the escalation of risky behaviors in adolescents.

“I concluded that repeated risky exposures can desensitize associated negative responses, explaining why teens take risks when they know a behavior is dangerous,” Rahman said.

“Most of all, the amygdala (part of the brain that controls emotions) plays an important role in risk-taking behavior. This means, whenever a person is exposed to a form of risky behavior, the amygdala produces a negative feeling that helps curb that act or impose self-control, but the more often a person is exposed to this kind of behavior, the more the responses may fade leading to desensitization of the brain to these associated negative emotions and a loss of self-control that may encourage an escalation of risky behaviors.”

She won first place in the Grand Awards category of behavioral and social sciences, an Addiction Science Award from the National Institute of Health and National Institute on Drug Abuse, and a special award from the American Psychological Association. Through these awards, she’s won herself cash awards, scholarships as well as a chance to visit National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Drug Abuse headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIDA, said regarding all the awardees, “It’s very gratifying to see the creative contributions that these young researchers are already making to the science of drugs and substance use disorders, including the factors that might underlie vulnerability for drug-taking.”


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