The mystery of teenage brains

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Whether we remember our own teenage years or have one or more of our own, there seems to be a mystery about teenagers and what's going on. Dr. Frances Jensen, chair of the neurology department at the University of Pennsylvania has a new book out exploring the teenage brain: The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults.

As a single mother of two teenage boys, Dr. Jensen became curious about why teenagers do and think they way they do. She recently gave an interview to NPR about her book and answered some interesting questions about adolescents and brain development. She explains that brain development take much longer than previously believed. It may be that brains are not fully developed until the mid to late 20's and for some, as long as into the early 30's. Part of the reason is that the myelin sheath growth starts at the back of the brain and it is the front of the brain, or prefrontal cortex, that is last to grow the insulating myelin sheath which facilitates brain function. While many functions are well-developed in the teenage years, the prefrontal cortex, the area associated with insight, empathy, decision making, and impulse control, is the last to fully develop. I think it is interesting that the Auto Insurance industry had the numerical data which would suggest that this could be the case. When do auto insurance rates for men go down? At 25-years-old. I wonder what else the actuarial tables could suggest?

Dr. Jensen describes why teenagers are more prone to addiction, the effect of drugs on teenage brain development, and the impact of being continuously connected to the world.

It's an interesting and informative interview: Click here to listen. If you'd rather read about it: Click here for the NPR article.

Keep an eye out for this one. Should be an interesting read.


Does what Dr. Jensen describe resonate with your experiences? Tell us your thoughts.

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About the Author
Dr. Yamazaki has been involved in adult education since the mid-1980's. She has developed technology-based education for the Air Force, commercial industry, and for higher education. She is certified in instruction systems design. She has taught courses for the Air Force and at community college, college, and university institutions. She was awarded the teaching excellence award at the US Air Force Academy as an instructor for the behavioral sciences. In her work with Macmillan Higher Education, she works with educators and editorial to consult on the development of educational products, services, and experiences for higher education.