UCL In the News: What is going on in teenagers’ brains?

7 March 2008

  • ‘The Times’ 

Dr Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, 33, a Royal Society research fellow at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and co-author (with Uta Frith) of The Learning Brain, explains the mysterious processes that cause sulking and lie-ins.

The brain develops massively in infancy, and part of the process involves a reduction in the number of synapses, the connections between neurons, or nerve cells. This is a good thing, says Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. “It’s like pruning a rose bush. You don’t want too many branches, because then no one branch can grow really strong. As you prune back it allows others to be strengthened.” …

In the future we may re-examine how we educate adolescents. “At the moment we focus on academic subjects, but we know that parts of the brain that are involved in non-academic things such as social understanding, self-awareness, decision-making and planning are developing. It is possible that lessons could include that kind of learning,” Blakemore says. At the very least she hopes that teenagers will be taught what is happening to their brains.