Brain Development During Adolescence | Lifespan development (2023)

learning successes

  • Describe the development of the brain during adolescence.

The human brain is not fully developed when a person reaches puberty. Between the ages of 10 and 25, the brain undergoes changes that have important implications for behavior. The brain reaches 90% of its adult size by the time a person is six or seven years old.Therefore, the brain does not grow much during adolescence. However, the folds of the brain become increasingly complex well into late adolescence. The largest changes in the brain folds during this time occur in the parts of the cortex that process cognitive and emotional information.

Brain cells in the frontal region continue to thrive until puberty. Some of the most significant changes in the development of tthe brain takes placethe prefrontal cortex, who is involvedMake a decisionand cognitive control, as well as other higher cognitive functions. during puberty,myelinationmisynaptic clippingin the increase of the prefrontal cortexsto improve information processing efficiency and strengthen neural connections between the prefrontal cortex and other regions of the brain. However, this growth takes time and is uneven.

The teenage brain: 6 things you need to know

Brain Development During Adolescence | Lifespan development (1)

illustration 1🇧🇷 The brain reaches its largest size in early adolescence, but continues to mature well into our 20s.

(Video) The Adolescent Brain: A second window of opportunity

As you learn about brain development during adolescence, consider these six facts from theNational Institute for Mental Health:

Your brain doesn't keep growing as you get older.

In girls, the brain reaches its greatest physical size around age 11, and in boys, the brain reaches its greatest physical size around age 14. Of course, this age difference does not mean that boys or girls are smarter than others!

But that doesn't mean your brain is mature.

In both boys and girls, brains are as big as ever, but they don't fully develop and mature until their mid-20s. The front part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, is one of the last brain regions to mature. It is the area responsible for planning, prioritizing and controlling impulses.

The adolescent brain is ready to learn and adapt.

In an ever-changing digital world, the adolescent brain is well-equipped to adapt to new technologies and shaped by experience.

Many mental disorders appear in adolescence

All the major changes the brain goes through might explain why adolescence is the time when many mental disorders emerge, including schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders.

The adolescent brain is resilient

Although adolescence is a vulnerable time for the brain and for adolescents in general, most adolescents grow into healthy adults. Some changes in the brain during this important period of development may actually help protect against long-term mental disorders.

Teenagers need more sleep than children and adults.

While it may seem that teenagers are lazy, science shows thatMelatoninBlood levels (or "sleep hormone" levels) naturally rise later at night and fall later in the morning than in most children and adults. This could explain why many teenagers stay up late and have a hard time waking up in the morning. Teens should get 9 to 10 hours of sleep a night, but most don't get enough sleep. Lack of sleep makes it difficult to pay attention, increases impulsivity, and can also increase irritability and depression.

Ölimbic systemit develops years before the prefrontal cortex. The development of the limbic system plays an important role in setting rewards and punishments, as well as processing emotional experiences and social information. Puberty hormones target theAmygdaladirect and powerful sensations become persuasive (Romeo, 2013).[1]Brain scans confirm that cognitive control, as shown in fMRI studies, is not fully developed by adulthood because the prefrontal cortex has limited connections and involvement (Hartley & Somerville, 2015).[2]Remember that this area is responsible for judgment, impulse control, and planning and is still maturing in early adulthood (Casey, Tottenham, Liston, & Durston, 2005).

(Video) Brain changes during adolescence | Behavior | MCAT | Khan Academy

Brain Development During Adolescence | Lifespan development (2)

Figure 2🇧🇷 Brain development lasts until age 20. Frontal lobe development is particularly important at this stage.

Also, changes in the levels of both neurotransmittersDopaminemiSerotoninin the limbic system make adolescents more emotional and receptive to rewards and stress. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with pleasure and attuning to the environment during decision-making. During adolescence, dopamine levels in the limbic system increase and dopamine input to the prefrontal cortex increases. It affects the brain in other ways. Known as the "calming chemical," serotonin relieves tension and stress. Serotonin also dulls the excitement and sometimes recklessness that dopamine can produce. If there is a defect in the processing of serotonin in the brain, impulsive or violent behavior can occur.

When the brain's overall chemical system is functioning well, these chemicals appear to interact to offset extreme behaviors. but whyWhen stress, excitement or sensations become extreme, the adolescent brain is flooded with impulses that overwhelm the prefrontal cortex and as a result aAdolescents exhibit riskier behavior and emotional outbursts, possibly because their brain's frontal lobes are still developing.

Later in adolescence, the brain's cognitive control centers develop in the prefrontal cortex, increasing adolescents' self-regulation and future orientation. The difference in development timing of these different brain regions contributes to increased risk-taking in mid-adolescence, as adolescents are motivated to seek thrills, sometimes stemming from risky behaviors such as reckless driving, smoking, or drinking, and yet not the facts. cognitive control evolved to resist impulses or equally focus on potential risks (Steinberg, 2008).[3]One of the world's leading experts on adolescent development, Laurence Steinberg, likens it to turning on a powerful engine before the braking system is in place. The result is that adolescents are more likely to engage in risky behavior than children or adults.


This video explains and highlights some of the key developments in the brain during adolescence.

(Video) Brain Development in Teenagers

You cansee transcript of “Brain Changes During Adolescence | behavior | MCAT | Khan Academy" here (opens in a new window).

As mentioned in Introduction to Adolescence, many who have read research on the adolescent brain have come to quick conclusions about adolescence as irrational guns unleashed. However, adolescents actually make decisions that are influenced by very different chemical influences than their adult peers: a reward system that can drown out warning signs of risk. A teenager's decisions are not always dictated by impulsiveness due to a lack of brakes, but by the planned and comfortable press on the gas pedal. It is helpful to place all of these brain processes in the context of development. Young people need to enjoy some of the thrill of taking risks in order to accomplish the incredibly daunting task of growing up.


Watch a select portion of this video to learn more about the research related to brain and behavioral changes during adolescence.

You canView the transcript of "The Teenage Brain Explained" here (opens in a new window).

More information can be found hereSarah-Jayne Blakemore's TED Talk: The Mysterious Workings of the Teenage Brainabout the latest research on the adolescent brain and more about how these changes in brain development lead to behavioral changes as well.

Main Conclusions

In short, the teenage years are a time of intense brain change. Interestingly, two of the brain's major functions develop at different rates. Brain research shows that the part of the brain that perceives risk rewards, the limbic system, kicks into gear in early adolescence. The part of the brain that controls impulses and is involved in long-term perspective, the frontal lobe, maturesslater. This may explain why mid-teens are more at risk than older teens. As the frontal lobes continue to develop, two things happen. First, self-control develops as adolescents become better at assessing cause and effect. Second, more areas of the brain become involved in processing emotions, and adolescents become better at accurately interpreting the emotions of others.[4]

(Video) Decision making and the adolescent brain



Brain development even affects the way teenagers sleep. Adolescents' normal sleep patterns differ from those of children and adults. Teenagers are often sleepy when they wake up, tired during the day and awake at night. See the sixth fact in The Adolescent Brain section above for more details.[5]

Link to Learning: Back to School

As research shows the importance of sleep for teenagers, many are arguing for later school entry. Read about some ofNational Sleep Foundation back-to-school surveyor look at thisWendy Troxel's TED Talk: "Why Schools Should Start Later for Teens".


Part of the limbic system in the brain involved in emotions and emotional responses, particularly active during puberty
a neurotransmitter in the brain that plays a role in the pleasure and reward systems; Increases in the limbic system and later in the prefrontal cortex during adolescence
the parts of the brain involved in impulse control, planning, and higher-order thinking; develops during puberty
Limbic system:
Structures in the brain (including the amygdala) involved in processing emotional experiences and social information and determining rewards and punishments; develops years before the prefrontal cortex
Sleep hormone, levels of which rise later in the evening and fall late in the morning in adolescents compared to children and adults
Isolation of the axons of neurons with a fatty substance (myelin sheath), which helps accelerate information processing; Myelination begins to increase in the prefrontal cortex during adolescence
The prefrontal cortex:
Part of the frontal lobes involved in decision making, cognitive control, and other higher-order functions; The prefrontal cortex continues to develop during adolescence
"calming chemical," a neurotransmitter in the brain involved in regulating mood and behavior; Serotonin levels in the limbic system increase during adolescence
synaptisches Pruning:
Connections in the brain that aren't used much are lost, allowing other connections to grow stronger; This circumcision occurs in the junctions of the prefrontal cortex in adolescence


Have ideas to improve this content? We would appreciate your opinion.

(Video) How the Brain Changes in Childhood and Adolescence

improve this pageLearn more

  1. Romeo, R.D. (2013). The adolescent brain: the stress response and the adolescent brain. Current Directions in Psychological Sciences, 22(2), 140-145.
  2. Hartley, California & Somerville, LH (2015). The neuroscience of decision-making in adolescents. Current Opinion in the Behavioral Sciences, 5, 108-115.
  3. Steinberg, L. (2013). Youth (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
  4. Steinberg, L. (2008) A socio-neuroscientific perspective on adolescent risk-taking. Development Review, 28:78-106.
  5. National Institute for Mental Health. The teenage brain: 6 things you need to know. Retrieved from


1. Development of the Young Brain
(National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH))
2. The Workings of the Adolescent Brain
3. Adolescent Brain Development - Part 1
(Clarity Child Guidance Center)
4. Brain Development Across the Lifespan
(Thomas Field)
5. Teen Brain Development
(National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA/NIH))
6. Why Teenagers' Brains Are Wired Differently


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Ouida Strosin DO

Last Updated: 09/01/2023

Views: 5492

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (76 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Ouida Strosin DO

Birthday: 1995-04-27

Address: Suite 927 930 Kilback Radial, Candidaville, TN 87795

Phone: +8561498978366

Job: Legacy Manufacturing Specialist

Hobby: Singing, Mountain biking, Water sports, Water sports, Taxidermy, Polo, Pet

Introduction: My name is Ouida Strosin DO, I am a precious, combative, spotless, modern, spotless, beautiful, precious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.