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How Does The Brain Change During Adolescence

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The Evolutionary Advantage Of The Teenage Brain

Brain changes during adolescence | Behavior | MCAT | Khan Academy

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Teens. OMG. What on earth is going on inside their brains to make them act so, well, like crazy teenagers?

The mood swings, the fiery emotions, the delusions of immortality, all the things that make a teenager a teenager might just seem like a phase we all have to put up with. However, research increasingly shows that the behaviors of teenagers arent just there to annoy parents, they serve a real evolutionary purpose.

A Preference For The Company Of Other Young People

The neural networks and dynamics associated with general reward and social interactions overlap heavily. The adolescent brain is similarly attuned to oxytocin that makes connecting with others more rewarding.

Peers of a similar age offer young people far more novelty than those who are familiar and most other adults. This is great when the relationships are supportive however if young people are only surrounded by other teens that have increased risk behaviours and no positive adults in their lives their risk is increased.

Sarah Jayne-Blakemore, a leading social neuroscientist of adolescent development, explores the effects that peers have on adolescent decision-making. She suggests that while it is well known that young people take a disproportionate number of risks, if you give them an optimal situation and environment this is not necessarily the case. In fact, the influence of having some motivational context such as the presence of a couple of friends around, heightens the risk-taking by young people. This is reflected in our understanding about car accidents involving young people and that they usually occur when they have a peer in the car with them.

Similarly, when adolescents are excluded by peers, their mood drops and anxiety increases more than adults. This suggested hypersensitivity to exclusion will obviously impact on decision making for young people.

Capacity To See Others Perspectives

Adolescents become better at understanding the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of other people, and the fact that these may be different from their own.15 Being able to put themselves in someone elses shoes helps them as they begin to have more complex relationships. It is healthy for them to develop more tolerance towards other people who have opinions and interests that are different from their own.16

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Reward Centers Drive Teens Toward New Experiences

Dopamine is a chemical that sends signals between different cells. Its known as a neurotransmitter. During adolescence, dopamine becomes increasingly activated. It is often thought of as a feel-good transmitter, but it does more than that. Rising dopamine activation is involved in the recognition and anticipation of pleasure. It is found in the reward centers of the brain. This explains, at least partly, adolescents attraction to new and exciting experiences. Dopamine, however, is also heavily involved in those pathways that help people focus and pay attention. Taken together, this suggests that dopamine activation drives teens towards new experiences and helps them learn from those experiences by moving them into memory. This aspect of brain development critical to learning, peaks during adolescence.

Should The Science Of Adolescent Brain Development Inform Public Policy

Brain development in childhood and adolescence

By Laurence Steinberg

Neuroscience has made tremendous progress in studying the adolescent brain, opening opportunitiesand raising challengesfor using the knowledge to inform a variety of public policies.

The science of adolescent brain development is making its way into the national conversation. As an early researcher in the field, I regularly receive calls from journalists asking how the science of adolescent brain development should affect the way society treats teenagers. I have been asked whether this science justifies raising the driving age, outlawing the solitary confinement of incarcerated juveniles, excluding 18-year-olds from the military, or prohibiting 16-year-olds from serving as lifeguards on the Jersey Shore. Explicit reference to the neuroscience of adolescence is slowly creeping into legal and policy discussions as well as popular culture. The U.S. Supreme Court discussed adolescent brain science during oral arguments in Roper v. Simmons, which abolished the juvenile death penalty, and cited the field in its 2010 decision in Graham v. Florida, which prohibited sentencing juveniles convicted of crimes other than homicide to life without parole.

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Biological Predispositions Development And Risky Behavior

The recognition of individual differences in impulse control and taking risks is not new in the field of psychology . Perhaps one of the classic examples of individual differences in the social, cognitive, and developmental psychology literatures is delay of gratification . Delay of gratification is typically assessed in 3- to 4-year-old toddlers. A toddler is seated in a room with two cookies and a bell. The child is then told that the experimenter will leave the room in order to prepare for upcoming activities and explains to the child that if she remains in her seat and does not eat a cookie, she will receive the large reward . If the child cannot wait, she should ring a bell to summon the experimenter and thereby receive the smaller reward . Distractions in the room are minimized, with no toys, books, or pictures. The experimenter returns after 15 minutes or after the child has rung the bell, eaten the rewards, or shown any signs of distress. showed that children typically behave in one of two ways: 1) either they ring the bell almost immediately in order to have the cookie, which means they only get one or 2) they wait and optimize their gains to receive both cookies. This observation suggests that some individuals are better than others in their ability to control impulses in the presence of highly salient incentives, and this bias can be detected in early childhood . This differential in impulse control appears to remain throughout adolescence and young adulthood .

Talking To Your Teen Really Helps

Adults who talk to children as they are growing up really help. A safe environment where they have consistent, loving support is vital for the brain to develop well. Young people need adults to believe in them and encourage them. Teenagers respond better to rewards than to punishment. They need clear, consistent boundaries, and very importantly, their growing capacity and ability to do things independently needs to be respected.

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The Developing Adolescent Brain

Emerging science allows us to understand adolescent brain development as we never have before. Equipped with this knowledge, we are better prepared both to understand and guide our children. As much as weve recently learned, we have so much more knowledge to gain. Here are the highlights of what we know so far.

Brain Changes During Adolescence

How Does the Brain Change During Adolescence?

During adolescence, brain cells continue to bloom in the frontal region. Some of the most developmentally significant changes in the brain occur in the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in decision making and cognitive control, as well as other higher cognitive functions. During adolescence, myelination and synaptic pruning in the prefrontal cortex increases, improving the efficiency of information processing, and neural connections between the prefrontal cortex and other regions of the brain are strengthened. However, this growth takes time, and the growth is uneven.

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The Teen Brain: 6 Things To Know From The National Institute Of Mental Health

For girls, the brain reaches its largest physical size around 11 years old and for boys, the brain reaches its largest physical size around age 14. Of course, this difference in age does not mean either boys or girls are smarter than one another!

But that doesnt mean your brain is done maturing

For both boys and girls, although your brain may be as large as it will ever be, your brain doesnt finish developing and maturing until your mid- to late-20s. The front part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, is one of the last brain regions to mature. It is the area responsible for planning, prioritizing, and controlling impulses.

The teen brain is ready to learn and adapt

In a digital world that is constantly changing, the adolescent brain is well prepared to adapt to new technologyand is shaped in return by experience.

Many mental disorders appear during adolescence

All the big changes the brain is experiencing may explain why adolescence is the time when many mental disorderssuch as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and eating disordersemerge.

The teen brain is resilient

Although adolescence is a vulnerable time for the brain and for teenagers in general, most teens go on to become healthy adults. Some changes in the brain during this important phase of development actually may help protect against long-term mental disorders.

Teens need more sleep than children and adults

A Neurobiological Model Of Adolescence

How do neural changes in subcortical regions associated with reward-seeking and emotion coincide with development of the prefrontal regions and do they relate to impulsivity and risk-taking behaviors? We have developed a neurobiological model of adolescent development within this framework that builds on rodent models and recent imaging studies of children, adolescents, and adults . depicts this model illustrating how bottom-up limbic and prefrontal top-down control regions should be considered together. The graph shows different developmental trajectories for these systems, with limbic systems developing earlier than prefrontal control regions. According to this model, the individual is biased more by functionally mature limbic regions during adolescence , compared to children, for whom these systems are both still developing, and compared to adults, for whom these systems are fully mature. This perspective provides a basis for nonlinear shifts in behavior across development, due to earlier maturation of this limbic system relative to the less mature top-down prefrontal control region. Furthermore, with development and experience, the functional connectivity between these regions provides a mechanism for top-down control of these regions . Our model reconciles the contradiction between health statistics of risky behavior during adolescence and the astute observation by that adolescents are able to reason and understand risks of behaviors in which they engage.

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What Does This Mean For You

Adolescence is a period of rapid growth, development, and learning. This presents a unique opportunity for adolescents to have a greater ability to actually shape the brains development. We can make certain patterns of our brain activity stronger by engaging in certain types of behaviors. One of the ways you can engage in your own development is by learning and understanding what is happening in your own brain. Awesome, right?

Functional Mri Studies Of Behavior During Adolescence

Introduction to Psychology: Brain changes during ...

The question remains how can fMRI studies help explain whether adolescents, compared to children or adults, are 1) lacking sufficient cognitive control , 2) risky in their choices and actions, and 3) more sensitive to affective information when required to exert cognitive control than children or adults.

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Adolescent Angst: 5 Facts About The Teen Brain

ByRobin Nixonpublished 9 July 12

They are dramatic, irrational and scream for seemingly no reason. And they have a deep need for both greater independence and tender loving care. There is a reason this description could be used for either teens or toddlers: After infancy, the brain’s most dramatic growth spurt occurs in adolescence.

“The brain continues to change throughout life, but there are huge leaps in development during adolescence,” said Sara Johnson, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who reviewed the neuroscience in “The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development” by Clea McNeely and Jayne Blanchard.

And though it may seem impossible to get inside the head of an adolescent, scientists have probed this teen tangle of neurons. Here are five things they’ve learned about the mysterious teen brain.

1. New thinking skills

Due to the increase in brain matter, the teen brain becomes more interconnected and gains processing power, Johnson said. Adolescents start to have the computational and of an adult if given time and access to information, she said.

But in the heat of the moment, their decision-making can be overly influenced by emotions, because their brains rely more on the limbic system than the more rational prefrontal cortex, explained said Sheryl Feinstein, author of “Inside the Teenage Brain: Parenting a Work in Progress” .

2. Intense emotions

3. Peer pleasure

4. Measuring risk

The Teen Brain: 6 Things To Know

Figure 1. The brain reaches its largest size in the early teen years, but continues to mature well into the 20s.

As you learn about brain development during adolescence, consider these six facts from the The National Institute of Mental Health:

Your brain does not keep getting bigger as you get older

For girls, the brain reaches its largest physical size around 11 years old and for boys, the brain reaches its largest physical size around age 14. Of course, this difference in age does not mean either boys or girls are smarter than one another!

But that doesnt mean your brain is done maturing

For both boys and girls, although your brain may be as large as it will ever be, your brain doesnt finish developing and maturing until your mid- to late-20s. The front part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, is one of the last brain regions to mature. It is the area responsible for planning, prioritizing and controlling impulses.

The teen brain is ready to learn and adapt

In a digital world that is constantly changing, the adolescent brain is well prepared to adapt to new technologyand is shaped in return by experience.

Many mental disorders appear during adolescence

All the big changes the brain is experiencing may explain why adolescence is the time when many mental disorderssuch as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and eating disordersemerge.

The teen brain is resilient

Teens need more sleep than children and adults

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The Adolescent Brain: Vulnerability And Opportunity

Stephanie Burnett Heyes and Chii Fen Hiu, Research Fellow at the British Academy and lecturer at the University of Birmingham Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford

More research needs to be conducted outside the typical Western, white, middle class community, to obtain a more accurate picture of global mental health and to develop more inclusive provision of support and treatment worldwide.27Positive impact of adolescent peer relationshipsThe impact of peer influence on adolescent risk perception and risky behaviour has been highlighted.2830 However, peers also have an important and positive role to play for adolescents. Evidence from studies on immigration, refugee status and mental health in adolescence have converged in identifying strong social, including peer, support as a protective factor against adverse outcomes.3133ConclusionResearch has shed light on changes occurring during adolescence in the brain, with potential implications for understanding adolescent behaviour and mental health risk. It is our hope that this research will feed into debate on steps that can be taken to optimise adolescent development and well-being worldwide. Across borders and cultures, the provision of accessible mental health services is crucial for societys young people. As the cornerstone of our future, the world needs to provide adolescents with a solid framework of support, within which they can explore, grow and flourish.References

Emotional And Coordination Centers Develop Rapidly

Mindful Moments: How the Brain Changes During Adolescence

The emotional centers of the brain found in the limbic system and amygdala are developing rapidly during adolescence. This leads to heightened emotions, including the ability to connect with others, to read people and the environment, and to react quickly in response to observations.

The part of the brain that involves movement and coordination, known as the cerebellum, undergoes rapid development and maturation during the adolescent years.

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Reading Others Emotions And Social Cues

From soon after birth, babies can read expressions of emotion on others faces. They get better at it as they grow. Adolescents learn to read and process more complex emotions and to pick up on subtle non-verbal cues.17 As they become less emotionally dependent on parents, they tend to spend more time with their peers. It helps to know what others think of them, and whether their peers are signalling approval and acceptance. If they sense theyre not fitting in, they may change their behaviour and responses in order to gain peer approval.18

Many adolescents begin to be romantically interested in others. Their increasing ability to read facial expressions of emotion and social cues may help them pick up on romantic interest directed towards them, such as a flirtatious look or may help them gauge a potential partners suitability.19

Not All Teens Are Impulsive

Some individuals are impulsive from childhood through adulthood. There is more difference between impulsive and non-impulsive people of all ages than there is between adolescents and adults. You may hear about impulsive adolescents more because they drive the news, but they do not represent most young people.

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How Science Can Help

How, then, does neuroscience contribute to a better understanding of adolescent behavior? As I said, I think the neuroscience serves at least two important functions.

First, neuroscientific evidence can provide added support for behavioral evidence when the neuroscience and the behavioral science are conceptually and theoretically aligned. Notice that I used the word support here. Because scientific evidence of any sort is always more compelling when it has been shown to be valid, when neuroscientific findings about adolescent brain development are consistent with findings from behavioral research, the neuroscience provides added confidence in the behavioral findings. But it is incorrect to privilege the neuroscientific evidence over the behavioral evidence, which is frequently done because the neuroscientific evidence is often assumedincorrectly by laypersons to be more reliable, precise, or valid. Many nonscientists are more persuaded by neuroscience than by behavioral science, because they often lack the training or expertise that would enable them to view the neuroscience through a critical lens. In science, familiarity breeds skepticism, and the lack of knowledge that most laypersons have about the workings of the brain, much less the nuances of neuroscientific methods, often leads them to be overly impressed by brain science and underwhelmed by behavioral research, even when the latter may be more relevant to policy decisions.

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