Wow Lisa, you sure have grown since the last time I saw you. What's changed?
Adolescence begins with puberty, the time we mature sexually. Puberty follows a surge of hormones, which may intensify moods and which trigger a series of bodily changes.
Until puberty, brain cells increase their connections, like trees growing more roots and branches. Then, during adolescence comes a selective pruning of unused neurons and connections
Hey! Get out of the way!
The growth of myelin, the fatty tissue that speeds neurotransmission, enables better communication with other brain regions. These developments bring improved judgment, impulse control, and long-term planning.
Maturation of the frontal lobes lags behind that of the emotional limbic system. Puberty’s hormonal surge and limbic system development help explain teens’ occasional impulsiveness, risky behaviors, and emotional storms.
Teens, when reasoning from their gut, weigh the immediate benefits more heavily. They seek thrills and rewards, but they can’t yet locate the brake pedal controlling their impulses.
In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court briefs argued against the death penalty for 16- and 17-year-olds. The briefs documented the teen brain’s immaturity “in areas that bear upon adolescent decision making.”