Teen brains are amazing!

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
"The brain is the last organ in the body to mature. 
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?"
"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.

Learn more:

"Why Do Teens Act This Way?", from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
The short video on this page is a quick course on what's unique about adolescent brains. Also, check out the brief articles about brain development, behavior, and teen moods.
"The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction"from the National Institute of Mental Health
This ten-page booklet packs a lot of information about brain science into its pages. It's also available as a webpage.

"Teen Brain: Behavior, Problem Solving, and Decision Making" is one of many short, informative articles from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry's "Facts for Families" series. These resources are available in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

"The Adolescent Brain" The Health Science Division at the University of Utah developed this page as part of its work on the science of addiction.

"Talking with Teenagers about Marijuana" from The New York Times, suggests giving teens access to information about brain science and contains links to reputable research studies.

"What Losing an Hour's Sleep Really Does to Your Children" explores the short- and long-term effects of sleep deprivation on growing brains

"The Child's Developing Brain" is an interactive visual showing how different areas of the brain develop from birth to 21.

"The Teen Brain : It's Just Not Grown Up Yet" is a National Public Radio article about author and neuroscientist Frances Jensen and her teenage sons 

"This Really Is Not Your (or Your Teen's) Brain on Drugs" by Gill-Montague Community School Partnership project director and certified prevention specialist Kara McLaughlin, was originally published in the 2015 Franklin County Guide for Parents

      "The Physiology of Addiction," produced by the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and North Quabbin, is a 50-minute video of a presentation by local family physician Ruth Potee. 

      Dr. Ruth Potee: The Physiology of Addiction

      In 2013, the Partnership brought Dr. Rubin Baler, a neuroscientist from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), to Greenfield Community College for a presention on how young developing brains are impacted by alcohol and drug use, sleep, food, and other influences. This is a recording of his talk:

      Ruben Baler: "Grey Matters"