Some of the most exciting new discoveries in neuroscience focus on adolescent brain development. Researchers have learned that the adolescent brain is far from completed. Many of the most important finishing touches in brain development occur during the second decade of life.
Adolescence is a window of opportunity for developing a better, smarter, faster brain. It is the time when the brain becomes more efficient and develops more advanced skills. But it can also be a time of missed opportunities and vulnerabilities if a teen does not challenge her/his brain or exposes the brain to neurotoxins, such as alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Similar to what happens in early childhood, adolescent brain development is a period of ‘use it or lose it’. Brain connections that are stimulated and used repeatedly grow stronger while unused connections wither away. How teens spend their time – their activities and experiences – influences both the organization and also the capacity of the brain.
This article reviews some of the latest research and describes how educators, healthcare providers, and youth serving professionals can help teens engage in activities that will lead to healthy, strong, and well developed brains.