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Attention Psychiatrists, Psychologists and Counselors: The Teenaged Mind is Different!

Attention Psychiatrists, Psychologists and Counselors: The Teenaged Mind is Different!

A study coming out of Children’s Hospital in Boston has a startling conclusion: teenagers’ brains are different from other brains!  Boy, I never would have guessed it – I wonder what tipped them off?  Perhaps the chief investigator made some observations in her own kitchen and living room where she may have encountered the wild beast we have named, The American Teenager?

And that’s what happened.  Frances Jensen, MD, from Harvard found herself interacting with her own sons and wondering why she decided to become a parent.  She starting researching the teenaged brain and found some significant things.   She learned that the teenaged brain is different.  Scientists used to think that humans’ brains were fully developed by 10 years of age, or so.  Dr. Jensen found that the brains of much older children – adolescents - were not as developed as adult brains.  For one thing, teenagers’ frontal lobes are not fully “connected,” literally.  The mechanism by which the teenagers’  frontal lobes communicate with the rest of the brain isn’t fully working yet, and Dr. Jensen thinks that this explains why teens may be so self-centered and moody, among other things.

Jensen also postulates that nature made the teenaged brain more “excitable” so that teens could be very responsive to everything in their environment.  One the plus side, this may make it easier for teens to learn quickly.  On the negative side, it may explain why teens are so susceptible to addictions.  Jensen describes addiction as a form of learning because psychoactive drugs intrude into brain connections that aren’t hardwired yet and they drugs can remain an element of those connections when they become concrete.

Interesting stuff coming from Boston and food for thought for psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors everywhere.  We’ve known forever that teenagers are an entirely separate species of human and now professional mental health caregivers can continue to establish a separate body of research and treatment options for teenagers with confidence that brain science will support them.

Here’s a great in-depth article from Psychiatric Times about the teenaged brain.

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