Adolescence is a time of dramatic behavioral, cognitive, social, and biological change. In recent years, techniques that scientists use to measure and image the brain have greatly enhanced our understanding of these changes.
I’ll be talking about some of these changes – and everything that scientists are learning about the differences in the teenage brain – during my Brain Awareness Season lecture this Monday evening, April 7. The lecture, sponsored by the OHSU Brain Institute, will begin at 7 p.m. at the Newmark Theater in downtown Portland.
What’s especially notable about the adolescent brain is that different systems of the brain are not developing at the same rates. This difference in developmental timing results in heightened vulnerability during the adolescent years.
Also, due to something called “neuroplasticity,” the adolescent brain is highly dependent on experiences. Neuroplasticity is how life experiences reorganize pathways in the brain. Neuroplasticity in the adolescent brain is especially high. This means that both positive and negative environmental influences play a role in shaping a teen’s functioning.
My lab at OHSU focuses on using techniques to better understand neurodevelopment in both healthy and at-risk adolescent populations. My presentation will describe the cutting-edge research surrounding these changes and help to explain why the adolescent period is a vulnerable and challenging time of development.