UCL News


Hormones are not the only problem for surly teenagers

8 September 2006

Teenagers are sulky and inconsiderate only because their brains are going through a period of rapid change, researchers said yesterday.

Tests have shown humans do not fully develop the ability to empathise with others until adulthood, possibly explaining why adolescents often live up to their surly, selfish stereotype.

Brain scans show that teenagers hardly use the area of the brain that analyses other people's emotions and thoughts when considering a course of action.

Dr Sarah-Jayne Blakemore [UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience], who led the work, said society should be slower to hand out Asbos to teenage boys because they were not wholly responsible for their actions.

Speaking at the British Association Festival of Science in Norwich, Dr Blakemore said: "Teenagers' brains are still works in progress. My research suggests it's not just hormones that cause teenagers to be their typical selves, but it could be the way their brains are developing as well. They're profoundly different in certain parts of the brain, and those parts are invariably the ones involved in making decisions and knowing the consequences of your actions." …

Dr Blakemore said "Handing out Asbos that can end up in a criminal record to people who through no fault of their own are programmed to be perturbed is something that we should question."

Nic Fleming and Roger Highfield, 'The Daily Telegraph'