Adolescent brain development
Anyone who has made it through adolescence knows this is a time of profoundly important development.
Science has known for many years that the brain achieves maximum size and weight at about age 6. What researchers didn’t know until the start of the 21st century is that the brain fully matures around the age of 25.
Today — and indefinitely — scientists are studying the brain’s development and functionality to understand its journey from conception through maturity. We also can see more clearly than ever how substance use affects the brain.
The reason adolescents become addicted more easily than adults has to do with brain development. The brain develops from the bottom up and from the back forward. This sequence means the reward circuit located near the bottom of the brain matures in early adolescence — which is a very big deal because the brain reward circuit is the channel through which everyone experiences rewards and pleasures. When it matures around the age of 13, adolescents experience rewards and pleasures as adults — but the part of the brain that helps them slow down, think through and understand the consequences of their actions won’t mature until their mid 20s.
This graphic shows how the brain develops from the bottom up and from the back forward. Areas in blue are mature.
Because of this sequence, adolescents have the ability to experience pleasures as an adult at about age 13, but they don’t have the ability to slow down, think through and understand the consequences of their actions until their mid-20s.
It’s like having a gas pedal and no brakes.
— From “Clearing the Haze” by Dr. Christian Thurstone
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