Development of the Teenage Brain


Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AR, UK; e-mail:


ABSTRACT—Adolescence is a time characterized by change—hormonally, physically, and mentally. We now know that some brain areas, particularly the frontal cortex, continue to develop well beyond childhood. There are two main changes with puberty. First, there is an increase in axonal myelination, which increases transmission speed. Second, there is a gradual decrease in synaptic density, indicating significant pruning of connections. These neural changes make it likely that cognitive abilities relying on the frontal cortex, such as executive functions and social-cognitive abilities, also change during adolescence. Here, we review recent research that has demonstrated development during adolescence of a variety of social-cognitive abilities and their neural correlates.