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He Has a Brain Wave

Teen brains are a work in progress, researcher says

What parent hasn't noticed that teens and reckless behavior sometimes seem to go hand-in-hand. Now, new research suggests that developmental changes in the brain during puberty may be partly to blame.

That's what this story in the Washington Post says. The story reports on the work of neuroscientist Jay Giedd who studied the brains of healthy teens and noticed the brains changed in unexpected ways as teens matured.

Giedd, a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, found that the biggest changes occurred in the front of the brain, in an area believed crucial for such advanced mental functions as reasoning, judgments and self-control, the story says.

The work is part of a growing body of scientific evidence suggesting that rebelliousness and other stereotypical teen-age behaviors that is frequently blamed on hormones may be partly caused by rapid change in the developing teen-age brain.

Giedd's work is still just a theory. But if true, it would underscore the importance of providing teens with positive experiences. "If the teens are doing music and sports and academics, that's how brains will be hard-wired. If they are doing video games and MTV and lying on the couch, that would be how they are hard-wired," Giedd says.

Critics say the theory reduces the range of teen behaviors to stereotypes.

The National Network for Child Care has tips for communicating with teens and younger children.

For other resources, try Parenting Adolescents.

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