Teenagers’ Brains Are Biologically Driven To Undergo A “Social Reorientation”

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This is fascinating: A study that scanned young people’s brains when they were 10 years old and then again when they were 13 found, in the second round of scans, dramatically greater activity in a particular brain region when the now-teenagers responded to questions about how they view themselves.

This region, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, seems to be of central importance when kids consider their identity and social status as they transition into adolescence. From the website ScienceDaily:

The findings, published in the April 24 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, confirm previous findings that specific brain networks support self-evaluations in the growing brain, but, more importantly, provide evidence that basic biology may well drive some of these changes, says Jennifer H. Pfeifer, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon.

“This is a longitudinal fMRI study, which is still relatively uncommon,” Pfeifer said. “It suggests a link between neural responses during self-evaluative processing in the social domain, and pubertal development. This provides a rare piece of empirical evidence in humans, rather than animal models, that supports the common theory that adolescents are biologically driven to go through a social reorientation.” (Read more here.)

Parents and teachers coping with the emotional volatility of this age may take some measure of solace from knowing that this “social reorientation” is a normal and natural stage of brain maturation.

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