What makes the teenage brain unique?
Research into understanding the teenage brain shows that teens are hardwired to make immature choices due to their unique, still-developing brain.
A growth spurt just before puberty and then a period of “pruning” are most noticeable in the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain where information synthesis takes place. It is also the part of the brain that controls planning, working memory, organisation, and mood modulation.
This area of the brain does not mature until about 18 years of age. So, the transition from concrete to abstract thinking does not always take place in an orderly or predictable manner. This is then reflected in moody and erratic behaviour.
Are there differences in brain development from girl to boy?
Yes, in general a teenage girl’s brain is developing, connecting and pruning 1-2 years ahead of a boy’s brain. So while girls brains are maturing by the early to mid-teens, boys are reaching the same development in their late teens to early 20s. Some experts suggest that this should be reflected in the learning in high schools and in the curriculum as well.
What implications does neuroscience have for society?
Implications can be great if we can use this information wisely and engage with our teens about what they are feeling and how, as Professor Frances E. Jensen says in her videos, teens can “embrace this learning capacity” for doing good. We know they are taking more risks and their judgement isn’t quite there yet, so giving them information to make the right choices is a great place to start.