Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Teenage Brain

Psychologists have known for some time that teenagers' brain are still developing. Some recent research suggests that teenage brain development has some interesting twists. For example, the prefrontal cortex is, in adults, responsible for cognitive control and behavior inhibition. We know that the prefrontal cortex continues to develop into teenage years, so it may not be surprising that sometimes teenagers have some difficulty controlling certain behaviors (like driving too fast.) Eventually, of course, most teenagers do develop the behavior control that we expect in adults.

What is interesting is that the development of the prefrontal cortex is also associated with an increase in social anxiety. Would it surprise parents to hear that teenagers sometimes exhibit poor judgment and worry excessively about their place in the social world of high school?

The mechanisms behind these related phenomena are not clear yet. One researcher suggests that the developing ability to think abstractly, which is useful in making judgments about the consequences of behaviors like driving too fast, also enables a teenager to be more aware of how others see him or her.

from Monitor on Psychology, April, 2007, p. 20.


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