The brain shapes "what's the matter with kids today," says the Harvard Mental Health Letter

There are plenty of explanations for teenage turmoil. The newest theory is that uneven brain development may be responsible for the changeable moods and unsettling behavior of adolescence, reports the July issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. Although many teens have fairly advanced intellectual and reasoning ability, recent research has shown that human brain circuitry is not mature until the early 20s. Among the last connections to be fully established are the links between the prefrontal cortex — the seat of judgment and problem-solving — and the emotional centers of the brain. These links are crucial to emotional learning and high-level self-regulation, explains the Harvard Mental Health Letter. Another circuit still under construction in adolescence links the prefrontal cortex to the midbrain reward system, where addictive drugs and romantic love exert their powers. Brain scans hint at why most addictions get their start in adolescence. Teenagers and adults process reward stimuli differently; adolescent brains react intensely to novel experiences, making those experiences more enticing.
To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »