Research on teen brain development

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Receive email alerts about issues that are important to UC and contact your legislators to ensure the university remains a hub of opportunity, excellence, and innovation. What on earth is going on inside their brains to make them act so, well, like crazy teenagers? The mood swings, the fiery emotions, the delusions of immortality, all the things that make a teenager a teenager might just seem like a phase we all have to put up with.

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It felt as if he turned into an angst-filled teenager overnight. So she decided to use her skills as a neuroscientist to explore what was happening under the hood. That was about 10 years ago, when society at large was only beginning to catch up to the idea that the teen brain was not a fully developed adult brain, just with less mileage.

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As director of research at a public policy center that studies adolescent risk-taking, I study teenage brains and teenage behavior. We found that much of the risk behavior attributed to adolescents is not the result of an out-of-control brain. As it turns out, the evidence supports an alternative interpretation: Risky behavior is a normal part of development and reflects a biologically driven need for exploration — a process aimed at acquiring experience and preparing teens for the complex decisions they will need to make as adults.

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This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.

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Although we see the chaos of the teenage years, in fact, it is part of what helps adolescents grow into adulthood. So, how can society best support teens through this time, and help them as they make decisions? Over the past decade, researchers like Casey have tried to understand how the brain changes and matures during adolescence.

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For girls, the brain reaches its largest physical size around 11 years old and for boys, the brain reaches its largest physical size around age Of course, this difference in age does not mean either boys or girls are smarter than one another! For both boys and girls, although your brain may be as large as it will ever be, your brain doesn't finish developing and maturing until your mid- to lates.

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But the brain still needs a lot of remodelling before it can function as an adult brain. Some brain changes happen before puberty, and some continue long after. Brain change depends on age, experience and hormonal changes in puberty.

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All rights reserved. One fine May morning not long ago my oldest son, 17 at the time, phoned to tell me that he had just spent a couple hours at the state police barracks. Apparently he had been driving "a little fast. Turns out this product of my genes and loving care, the boy-man I had swaddled, coddled, cooed at, and then pushed and pulled to the brink of manhood, had been flying down the highway at miles an hour.

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Many parents do not understand why their teenagers occasionally behave in an impulsive, irrational, or dangerous way. At times, it seems like teens don't think things through or fully consider the consequences of their actions. Adolescents differ from adults in the way they behave, solve problems, and make decisions.

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The brain develops very rapidly in the first years of life, and all the structure and building blocks are present by the age of 9. The different centres of the brain develop and become functionally connected over time. The last part to mature is the pre frontal lobe.


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