The Learning Brain: Memory and Brain Development in Children

By Torkel Klingberg; Neil Betteridge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Through the Pyrenees by Motorbike
The Risk-Taking Teenage Brain

One of the most surprising results of recent research into brain development is how long it carries on. In the 1990s, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) launched a large-scale study on child development that involved monitoring children with regular magnetic resonance scans up to the age of sixteen, the age at which the brain was presumed to be fully developed. To be on the safe side, however, the length of the study was extended to the age of eighteen. Even so, it turned out that they had still missed the end point of brain development by about seven years. Car rental firms, with their detailed databases of accident statistics, often refuse to rent vehicles to anyone under twenty-five, which corresponds with the knowledge we now have of when the brain reaches full maturity. Jay Giedd of the NIMH, one of the most prominent researchers working on the development of the pediatric brain, likes to joke that Hertz obviously has the very best neuroscientists.

The sixteen-year-old brain is not just a less experienced adult brain but an organ that is still under development. Such findings about late cerebral development have sparked interest in the teenage brain. Is it a lack of maturity that explains why a sixteenyear-old decides to test the ski jump on her new BMX? Or why young people are heavily overrepresented in traffic accidents,

-25-

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