Advertisement

How do the brains of teenagers differ from those of adults?

In adults, various parts of the brain work in concert to evaluate choice, form judgments and take actions. The brain does not appear to work like this in teenagers.

In teenagers, the brain is somewhat like an entertainment center that not been fully connected. There are loose wires, for instance, so the speaker system is not working with the DVD, which also has not yet been formatted with the television. To top it off, the remote control has not even arrived yet.

For purposes of this analogy, the brain's remote control is the prefrontal cortex. This is the section of the brain that evaluates outcomes, formulates judgments and controls emotions and impulses.

The prefrontal cortex communicates with other parts of the brain through synapses, which can be likened to the wires of an entertainment system.

Scientists have learned that teenagers experience considerable growth in synapses during adolescence.

The brain prunes away synapses it doesn't need, in order to make remaining ones more efficient.

In teenagers, this pruning process begins at the back of the brain and then moves forward-meaning that the prefrontal cortex-the brain's vital center of control, is the last to be trimmed. As connections are trimmed, an insulating substance known as myelin coats the synapses, which protects them.

As a result, the prefrontal cortex in a teenager is bit immature as compared to adults. The prefrontal cortex may not fully develop until your mid-20s.

Imaging studies have revealed that much of the mental energy that teens use in making decision is at the back of the brain, while adults do most of their processing in the frontal lobe.

Continue Learning about Your Mind

What is attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in a teen?
Lara Honos-Webb, PhDLara Honos-Webb, PhD
Teens with ADHD may struggle with the following problems:Having trouble paying attention in classFin...
More Answers
As a teen, how can I tell if I have a mood disorder?
International Bipolar FoundationInternational Bipolar Foundation
Every annoying adult will tell a teenager that adolescence can be a troubling time. Hormones drive m...
More Answers
Why Is It Important to Trust My Intuition When It Comes to My Health?
Why Is It Important to Trust My Intuition When It Comes to My Health?
Are There Certain Gut Instincts or Intuitions That I Should Never Ignore?
Are There Certain Gut Instincts or Intuitions That I Should Never Ignore?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.