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Teen Brains

November 11, 2013

Teen brains are much more developed in some areas than others.



The unique teen brain. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Pierre Metivier/Flickr)

Few people understand teenagers like neurologist Jay Giedd, of the National Institute of Mental Health. He’s tracked thousands of kids through adulthood, using brain scans, DNA analysis, and psychological testing. His team learned that the brain takes a long time to fully mature.

JAY GIEDD (National Institute of Mental Health):

So when we started, we thought, should we follow people till age 16 or 18, but we hadn’t really anticipated that as more like 25 to 30.

What’s more, different parts of the brain mature at different times – the last one being the prefrontal cortex, the center of rational decision-making. In teens, it’s not nearly as developed as the centers of emotion, social interaction, and sex drive. Giedd says this may make teens more reckless, but it also makes them more creative and open to new experiences – which may even have helped human society evolve. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.