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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Science/AAAS Google+ Hangout on the Adolescent Brain Featuring NIMH’s Jay Giedd, M.D.

From NIMH - The National Institute of Mental Health

September 27, 2013

Why do teens engage more in risky and hazardous behavior? Rates of death by injury between ages 15 to 19 are about six times that of the rate between ages 10 and 14. Crime and alcohol abuse rates are also high relative to other ages.

Although genes, childhood experience, and environment all shape a young person’s behavior, scientists have also discovered significant changes that the brain undergoes during adolescence. Research shows that the brain does not look like that of an adult until the early 20s.

As chief of the Unit on Brain Imaging in the Child Psychiatry Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Jay Giedd, M.D. has studied the development of the adolescent brain for more than 20 years.

Dr. Giedd participated in a live Google+ Hangout with Science/AAAS on September 26, 2013, discussing the mysteries of the adolescent brain and what makes it unique.

By about 11 or 12 years old, a child's brain is nearly as large as it will ever be, but its development is far from finished. From early adolescence until the mid-20s, the dramatic reshaping of connections between brain cells sculpts regions involved in planning, organization, and many other cognitive functions that we associate with "growing up."

This may make teens more vulnerable to psychiatric disorders that often arise during adolescence, such as schizophrenia, but it may also present an exciting chance to shape the brain long-term. What do we know about these risks and opportunities? And how can discoveries about the teen brain inform how we parent and educate our children?

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