The Adolescent Brain

New research shows for the first time that during adolescence the brain grows and changes at an increased rate. Dr. Jay Giedd, who led this research, believes that what teens do during their adolescent years — whether it’s playing sports or playing video games — can affect how their brains develop.

It’s also a particularly cruel irony of nature, I think, that right at this time when the brain is most vulnerable is also the time when teens are most likely to experiment with drugs or alcohol.

Sometimes when I’m working with teens, I actually show them these brain developmental curves, how they peak at puberty and then prune down. I try to reason with them that if they’re doing drugs or alcohol that evening, it may not just be affecting their brains for that night or even for that weekend, but for the next 80 years of their life.

Dr. Jay Giedd
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
Child Psychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental Health

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