Recent Blog Articles

Child & Teen Health

A new view of the teenage brain: adaptation is job 1

October 1, 2011
  • By Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

About the Author

photo of Patrick J. Skerrett

Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

Pat Skerrett is the editor of STAT's First Opinion and host of the First Opinion podcast. He is the former editor of the Harvard Health blog and former Executive Editor of Harvard Health Publishing. Before that, he was editor of … See Full Bio
View all posts by Patrick J. Skerrett


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.


Bert Garskof
January 10, 2012

The age range discussed does not include teenagers in evolutionary time. Until very recently, thirteen year olds were full-fledged adults, probably mated and parents. If evolution is involved, it is because puberty evolved as the sign for mating. I do not know what this obvious comment has to do with the idea at the “teen” brain is changing, etc. But surely it must.
Bert Garskof, Ph.D.

November 8, 2011

I read that article and was disappointed because of several points. First, I didn’t understand how the new research alters the view that an adolescent’s brain is a “work in progress”. Key pathways-most importantly, perhaps, the PFC-are still developing; re-wiring is occurring, at a rate greater than in adulthood. True that it’s in preparation of, or transition to, adulthood, but re-naming the window or giving it a “brighter light” doesn’t change the fact that it’s a “work in progress” (in my view :). The brain is experiencing the environment and adapting in preparation for adulthood. Also, the idea that adolescent motivational drive, unimpeded by a not-fully developed PFC, (combined, looks like impulsivity and novelty-seeking in practice), promotes transition to adulthood is not a new one, so I was disappointed in the NG article. I guess I did not see the “new” in the view.

Furthermore, human brains have critical developmental windows that are “exquisitely sensitive” to the environment, designed for adaptation and survival (pregnancy being one of them), and that’s not a new concept, either; and the assertion that adolescence is greater…..I don’t know if the data supports that. It’s certainly a critical window, with a lot of changes occurring, based on input and environment, for survival, but the most adaptive…..? Seemed more dramatic than fact.

Of course, as a parent to a teenager, I found it interesting, too; however, having read previous reviews and research on the topic, I thought it was a bit over-hyped and disappointing. JMHO 🙂

Anne Jolki
October 11, 2011

Yes John, you are absolutely right! If you will listen teen talks and topics that they are covering when they socialize, you will understand that they actually %80 talking about attractions and entertainments. We must listen to them and give them what they need! And those %20 what is left to fulfill of other things that are most useful for their future!

Kind regards,
Anne(a IT Teacher from London)
[URL removed by moderator]

John Scott
October 6, 2011

A teacher in Newark, NJ told me about her success with her children. She said that she recommends that parents be good listeners. “Take time to listen to your teen,” she said. It doesn’t always matter that you offer advice, but always be there to listen to them, even when they may be going through hard times, and after they get to college age as well.
[URL removed by moderator]

Commenting has been closed for this post.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.