chapter  6
19 Pages

The challenge of the brain

What can the new adolescent neuroscience tell us, what are its limits, and where could it go from here?
WithHoward Sercombe

Contemporary neuroscience, through the employment of new and vastly improved technologies, has enabled a new generation of research into the cognitive world of young people. This chapter surveys developments over the last thirty years, describing the emergence of new insights into brain plasticity and the social and environmental determination of brain architecture, and the characteristic developmental processes that the teenage brain is undergoing. Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (sMRI) gave us new information about plasticity and the changes in the ratio of white matter to grey matter through the teenage years. Functional MRI explored potential differences in the activation of different brain regions in young people compared to older adults by measuring the comparative consumption of oxygen in each region. The chapter concludes with a call for greater collaboration between neuroscientists and other disciplines, especially the social sciences, in advancing the understanding of the structures of cognition in the teenage years.