Teen brain development in the news

Here are a few interesting excerpts from an article in Newsweek entitled, The Kids Can’t Help It: What new research reveals about the adolescent brain—from why kids bully to how the teen years shape the rest of your life.

-- One of the most important discoveries in this area of study, says Dr. Frances Jensen, a neuroscientist at Harvard, is that our brains are not finished maturing by adolescence, as was previously thought. Adolescent brains “are only about 80 percent of the way to maturity,” she said at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in November. It takes until the mid-20s, and possibly later, for a brain to become fully developed.

-- . . . a Harvard study found that kids who smoked pot before age 16 had more lifelong cognitive problems than those who started smoking after 16. The tests were done on subjects with an average age of 22, and those who smoked pot earlier had problems remembering details, making decisions, and responding quickly when directions changed.

-- . . . the social and psychological dynamics that make adolescents susceptible to acting on the real or perceived pressure of their peers can also be a system for resisting those same pressures. Sometimes it is the adolescents who have been picked on, but have found compatriots, whose anticonformist attitude protects against both the harassment by, and the social pressure from, higher-status peers. And surprisingly, sometimes the teens most at risk are in the middle and upper range of social status, but not quite at the top.