The Adolescent Brain: "Arrested" or Adaptive Development
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
LSRC - DIBS B035 Multipurpose Room
BJ Casey, Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Adolescence is the transition from childhood to adulthood that begins around the onset of puberty and ends with relative independence from the parent. This developmental period is one when an individual is probably stronger, of higher reasoning capacity, and more resistant to disease than ever before, yet when mortality rates increase by 200%. These untimely deaths are not due to disease but to preventable deaths associated with adolescents putting themselves in harm's way (e.g., accidental fatalities). These alarming health statistics are in part due to diminished self-control- the ability to inhibit inappropriate desires, emotions, and actions in favor of appropriate ones. Findings of adolescent-specific changes in self-control and underlying brain circuitry are considered in terms of how evolutionarily based biological constraints and experiences shape the brain to adapt to the unique intellectual, physical, sexual, and social challenges of adolescence. These dynamic developmental changes can put the teen at risk, but can also provide a window of opportunity for positive change through implementation of public policies designed to protect young people and through interventions targeted to the biological state of the brain during this important phase of development.