Learn About Teen Brain Development

The teen brain is an active construction zone. Human brains change enormously during the first 25 years of a person’s life.  We now know that a lot more is happening in the brain during the teen years than we ever realized.

Adolescent experiences shape the brain for life. Taking risks, having strong feelings, and acting impulsively are normal teen behaviors that can have positive or negative consequences. Decisions teens make now can lead to habits that last a lifetime.

book cover: The Teen Brain

"Teens' synapses function at higher levels, which is excellent and explains why they can learn so much ... However, addiction is a form of learning and teens are more susceptible to negative effects of substances or stress."
— from an interview with Frances E. Jensen, professor of neurology, parent, and co-author of The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults

Talk about it!
You can make a difference in young people's lives by helping them understand what they can do to take care of their bodies and brains during this crucial time. Try asking questions like:

"What do you hope your life will be like when you are older?"
Youth are better at resisting impulses when they have goals for the future and a realistic sense of the steps involved in reaching them.

"What skills will you need to have to accomplish your goals?"
The adolescent brain's capacity for learning is incredible! Getting really good at something when you are a teen usually means you will have those skills for life.

"Do you know what happens in your brain when you try new things?" and "Do you know what happens when you do the same thing over and over?"
"Use it or lose it" is a key concept for teen brains. After a period of rapid growth in childhood, in the teen years brain development is focused on selecting and strengthening key pathways.

"Why do you think people your age take more risks than adults?"
While of course individuals vary, in general, the architecture of teen brains means at this age people are not as adept at planning ahead as adults, and they are much more likely to act without thinking.