“The Teenage Brain by Frances E. Jensen” Review by Nistha Dube

Teenage Brain

Frances Jensen, head of University of Pennsylvania’s Neurology Department, crafts a well-rounded entry on the influence of brain structure on behavior in individuals throughout their teenage years. Many adults attribute to the youth impulsive behavior and lack of maturity, however, there are valid reasons for this that have been recently discovered for the scientific community. In The Teenage Brain, the author aims to address parent’s concerns through discussions with multiple psychologists, encounters with frustrated parents, and research on the workings of the nervous system. Jensen denounces the commonly held theory that the brain is fully developed by adolescence.

Each chapter begins similarly-opening with an account of an anecdote about an angsty teen that has gone down the wrong path. Upon classifying the various events (drugs/alcohol, stress, mental illness, injury, etc.), the author lists the biological factors that generally cause the irrational behavior. For example, she explains the disparity in white to gray matter ratios between the brains of teenagers and adults which causes variations in emotional stability and anger tolerance. Additionally, she mentions other critical points that are essential for parent knowledge, such as the impact that cellular radiation has on sleep cycles and the effect of stress factors on the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis-an area of the brain prone to malfunctioning under stress and causing mental illness.

Overall, the read was not only extremely informative, but eye-opening as well. I would highly suggest this book to all parents, teachers, coaches, and even teenagers themselves. There are reasons for the way all individuals behave and proven explanations for this newfound phenomenon. You may not know it yet, but what once seemed like irrational behavior may have a rational explanation after all.


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