BARBARA STRAUCH THE PRIMAL TEEN Barbara Strauch is the medical science and health editor of The New York Times. She previously covered science and medical issues in Boston and Houston and directed Pulitzer Prize–winning news at Newsday . She is the mother of two teenagers and lives in Westchester County, New York.
The teenage brain may, in fact, be briefly insane.
Giedd found the frontal lobes, the very area that helps make teenagers do the right thing, are one of the last areas of the brain to reach a stable grown-up state, perhaps not reaching full development and refinement until well past age twenty.
Much of basic brain development is driven by genes, but many connections, some dendrite branches and their synapses, develop and thrive simply because they’re used the most and grab the most neurochemical juice. That’s the brain’s basic modus operandi, the principle of “use it or lose it,” and it means that certain life experiences—good and bad—can have an impact on the brain’s essential architecture.