The teenage brain - a work in progress

Teenage brain A neuron or brain cell. (Image © Iroise Dumontheil)

"Until quite recently, scientists and society in general assumed brain development only takes place very early in life," says Dr Sarah-Jayne Blakemore of University College London. "Contrary to this belief, recent research has shown brain development continues for many decades, and adolescence is a period characterised by particularly dramatic neural development."

The research undertaken has studied how certain areas of the brain, especially the prefrontal cortex, are activated during tasks that involve decision making, empathy and self-awareness. Activity in this area of the brain when thinking about intentions and emotions was found to be higher in adolescents than adults, with it reducing as people age.

"This research sheds light on the development of the adolescent brain and has implications for society as a whole," continues Sarah-Jayne. "This knowledge could be used to change education practice and policy to address the increased self-consciousness, risk taking and peer influence behaviours of adolescents and to tailor-make lessons for the developing teenage brain."

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