6 Misconceptions About Adolescent Brains

Neurologist Frances Jensen of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine identified six myths about the teenage brain that she says science has refuted over the past 15 years. The adolescent brain is exceedingly quick at learning new skills yet is vulnerable to illicit substances and impulsive behavior.

NO. 1: ADOLESCENTS ARE ADULTS WITH FEWER MILES ON THEM. Actually, adolescents’ brains have more plasticity than adults, meaning they make connections between brain cells more quickly so learning is easier.

NO. 2: THE BRAIN IS DONE DEVELOPING BY AGE 12. In fact, the brain is the last organ in the body to fully mature. It is completed by the mid- to late 20s.

NO. 3: TEENAGERS ARE MORE RESILIENT THAN ADULTS. Untrue. Teens are more sensitive to stress. In adults, the stress hormone makes them calmer. In teens, the same hormones make them more anxious.

NO. 4: THE IQ OF A TEENAGER IS ESTABLISHED AS A CHILD. Actually, at least two-thirds of people change their IQ in their teen years.

NO. 5: ADOLESCENTS WON’T GET ADDICTED. THEY’LL BOUNCE BACK. In reality, teens get addicted more easily than adults do, and it’s harder for them to quit. Addiction is a form of learning. Cogni-tive impairment after smoking marijuana lasts longer in teens. It can last four days in teens, meaning Sunday’s high can affect what happens on Thursday’s test.

NO. 6: TEENAGERS ARE NATURALLY LAZY. Untrue. They sleep late because their circadian clock is set differently. While adult brains release melatonin at 8 to 9 p.m., teenagers’ brains don’t release it until 11 p.m