Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Teenage Brain

Dr. Jay Giedd (U of M) studies teen brain development using MRI
Today in class we viewed a selected portion of a Frontline documentary entitled "Inside the Teenage Brain". The program provides an introduction to what recent advances in neuroscience have revealed about the biological causes behind well-documented differences between adult and teenage thinking.

As often happens when we view and discuss the program, I received a lot of requests to communicate this information to parents (e.g. "Could you please come talk to my dad about this?"). Since it seems a little presumptuous to phone my students' parents out-of-the-blue for a nice talk about neuroscience, I'll post the links here and let students start the conversations themselves. Students may want to watch the full version (we only watched a portion in class) and parents may find this extremely interesting as well.

The website to accompany the program also has numerous resources for the parents of teenagers, which some may find helpful.

Another helpful video resource can be found in another PBS series from a few years ago, "The Secret Life of the Brain." Episode Three is focused entirely on the unique developmental features of the teenage brain.

While this program is quite good, I would note that there are some remaining controversies about using the "underdeveloped prefrontal cortex" explanation to explain teen decision-making (this is one of the concepts presented in the Frontline video). These were highlighted in a recent article from National Geographic on the brains of teenagers.

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