The adolescent brain

Adolescence as a sensitive period of social brain development

  • Mon 6th Mar 2023

Adolescence, defined as 10-24 years, is a period of life often characterised by behaviours that can appear, prima facie, irrational such as dangerous risk-taking and impulsivity. However, these behaviours can be interpreted as adaptive and rational given that a key developmental goal of this period of life is to mature into an independent adult while navigating a social world that is unstable and changing. Research over the past two decades has demonstrated that social cognitive processes involved in navigating an increasingly complex social world develop, social influence is an important determinant of decision making and areas of the social brain undergo substantial development across adolescence. The findings suggest that adolescence might be a sensitive period of social development.

Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore CPsychol FBA FMedSci is Professor of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, UK, and leader of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Group. Her group's research focuses on the development of social cognition and decision making in the human adolescent brain, and adolescent mental health. Her group runs behavioural studies in schools and in the lab, as well as neuroimaging studies, with adolescents and adults. You can read more about the group and their research here.

She is Chair of the Royal Society of Biology Education and Science Policy Committee, an editor at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and on the advisory board of The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. She has been awarded many national and international prizes for her research and is an Honorary Fellow of St John's College, Oxford. She is a Fellow of the British Academy (2018), the American Association of Psychological Science (2020) and the Academy of Medical Sciences (2022).

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