What’s Happening in the Brain During Adolescence?
According to the National Institute of Mental health, the human brain does not finish developing and maturing until our mid- to late- 20s, but during that time the brain doesn’t change size, rather certain regions mature. The prefrontal cortex is one of these regions to mature — the area responsible for planning, prioritizing and controlling impulses.
While resilience and changes during this time can help to protect against long-term disorders, many mental disorders do appear during adolescence. Symptoms of disorders including schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and eating disorders may emerge during this time (NIMH, 2017).
It is important to note that teens need more sleep than children and adults during this time. Many teens stay up light and struggle to get up in the morning because the melatonin (sleep hormone) levels will rise later at night and fall later in the morning throughout teenage years.
New Research: Human Brain Networks Developing in Adolescence
New research has shown that there are new patterns of development in the human brain during adolescence (Sotiras et al., 2017). As we know, brain development during adolescence involves development of behavior and cognitive skills including reasoning, coordination, decision making, motivation and emotional regulation. The study revealed that the structural brain network changes during adolescence have evolutionary significance; parts of brain development during adolescence are defining aspects of what it means to be human as we know our species today (Sotiras et al., 2017). Basically, there are systematic relationships between regions that develop during adolescence, associated with degree of evolutionary expansion in those same areas. During adolescence, there is a “cortical thinning” process that takes place to deepen and strengthen functional specializations of the brain.
Resources and References
Sotiras, A. a., Toledo, J. B., Gur, R. E., Gur, R. C., Satterthwaite, T. D., & Davatzikos, C. (2017). Patterns of coordinated cortical remodeling during adolescence and their associations with functional specialization and evolutionary expansion. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America, 114(13), 3527-3532.