April 7 Brain Awareness lecture: the adolescent brain

Adolescence is a time of dramatic behavioral, cognitive, social, and biological change. In recent years, techniques that scientists use to measure and image the brain have greatly enhanced our understanding of these changes.

I’ll be talking about some of these changes – and everything that scientists are learning about the differences in the teenage brain – during my Brain Awareness Season lecture this Monday evening, April 7. The lecture, sponsored by the OHSU Brain Institute, will begin at 7 p.m. at the Newmark Theater in downtown Portland.

What’s especially notable about the adolescent brain is that different systems of the brain are not developing at the same rates. This difference in developmental timing results in heightened vulnerability during the adolescent years.

Also, due to something called “neuroplasticity,” the adolescent brain is highly dependent on experiences. Neuroplasticity is how life experiences reorganize pathways in the brain. Neuroplasticity in the adolescent brain is especially high. This means that both positive and negative environmental influences play a role in shaping a teen’s functioning.

My lab at OHSU focuses on using techniques to better understand neurodevelopment in both healthy and at-risk adolescent populations. My presentation will describe the cutting-edge research surrounding these changes and help to explain why the adolescent period is a vulnerable and challenging time of development.

Bonnie Nagel, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital
Member, OHSU Brain Institute


3 responses to “April 7 Brain Awareness lecture: the adolescent brain

  1. My daughter is 15 years old. I just found out she’s been smoking mariguana (she says only 3 times, but probably more). My husband and I are both addicts in recovery and I’m scared to death for her. I’ve seen addictive tendencies in her since she was very young. The only way I can impress upon her to help herself at this point is to show here that there is damage to the brain up until the early 20’s. Can you help me out? Maybe with easy to read articles (I’m sure her attention span to this “help” will be limited! And/or videos, pictures of the brain before and after, etc. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi, Melanie. I’ll work with Dr. Nagel to get some resources you can share with your daughter. Thanks for the question. -Anne

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