The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults

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A New York Times Bestseller

Renowned neurologist Dr. Frances E. Jensen offers a revolutionary look at the brains of teenagers, dispelling myths and offering practical advice for teens, parents and teachers.

Dr. Frances E. Jensen is chair of the department of neurology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. As a mother, teacher, researcher, clinician, and frequent lecturer to parents and teens, she is in a unique position to explain to readers the workings of the teen brain. In The Teenage Brain, Dr. Jensen brings to readers the astonishing findings that previously remained buried in academic journals.

The root myth scientists believed for years was that the adolescent brain was essentially an adult one, only with fewer miles on it. Over the last decade, however, the scientific community has learned that the teen years encompass vitally important stages of brain development.  Samples of some of the most recent findings include:

  • Teens are better learners than adults because their brain cells more readily "build" memories. But this heightened adaptability can be hijacked by addiction, and the adolescent brain can become addicted more strongly and for a longer duration than the adult brain.
  • Studies show that girls' brains are a full two years more mature than boys' brains in the mid-teens, possibly explaining differences seen in the classroom and in social behavior.
  • Adolescents may not be as resilient to the effects of drugs as we thought. Recent experimental and human studies show that the occasional use of marijuana, for instance, can cause lingering memory problems even days after smoking, and that long-term use of pot impacts later adulthood IQ.
  • Multi-tasking causes divided attention and has been shown to reduce learning ability in the teenage brain. Multi-tasking also has some addictive qualities, which may result in habitual short attention in teenagers.
  • Emotionally stressful situations may impact the adolescent more than it would affect the adult: stress can have permanent effects on mental health and can to lead to higher risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression.

Dr. Jensen gathers what we’ve discovered about adolescent brain function, wiring, and capacity and explains the science in the contexts of everyday learning and multitasking, stress and memory, sleep, addiction, and decision-making.  In this groundbreaking yet accessible book, these findings also yield practical suggestions that will help adults and teenagers negotiate the mysterious world of adolescent development.

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About the author

Frances E. Jensen, MD, is Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. She was Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, Director of Translational Neuroscience and Director of Epilepsy Research at Boston Children’s Hospital, and Senior Neurologist at Boston Children’s and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals. She lectures widely about the teen brain at science museums, TEDMED, and high schools.

Amy Ellis Nutt is a science journalist at the Washington Post and the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in feature writing. Her most recent book is Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Harper Collins
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Published on
Jan 6, 2015
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Pages
384
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ISBN
9780062067869
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Family & Relationships / Life Stages / Teenagers
Psychology / Cognitive Neuroscience & Cognitive Neuropsychology
Psychology / Developmental / Adolescent
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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As a research neuroscientist, Lise Eliot has made the study of the human brain her life's work. But it wasn't until she was pregnant with her first child that she became intrigued with the study of brain development.

She wanted to know precisely how the baby's brain is formed, and when and how each sense, skill, and cognitive ability is developed. And just as important, she was interested in finding out how her role as a nurturer can affect this complex process. How much of her baby's development is genetically ordained--and how much is determined by environment? Is there anything parents can do to make their babies' brains work better--to help them become smarter, happier people?

Drawing upon the exploding research in this field as well as the stories of real children, What's Going On in There? is a lively and thought-provoking book that charts the brain's development from conception through the critical first five years.

In examining the many factors that play crucial roles in that process, What's Going On in There? explores the evolution of the senses, motor skills, social and emotional behaviors, and mental functions such as attention, language, memory, reasoning, and intelligence. This remarkable book also discusses:

how a baby's brain is "assembled" from scratch
the critical prenatal factors that shapebrain development
how the birthing process itself affects the brain
which forms of stimulation are most effective at promoting cognitive development
how boys' and girls' brains develop differently
how nutrition, stress, and other physical and social factors can permanently affect a child's brain

Brilliantly blending cutting-edge science with a mother's wisdom and insight, What's Going On in There? is an invaluable contribution to the nature versus nurture debate. Children's development is determined both by the genes they are born with and the richness of their early environment. This timely and important book shows parents the innumerable ways in which they can actually help their children grow better brains.
A precise scientific exploration of the differences between boys and girls that breaks down damaging gender stereotypes and offers practical guidance for parents and educators.

 

In the past decade, we've come to accept certain ideas about the differences between males and females—that boys can't focus in a classroom, for instance, and that girls are obsessed with relationships. In Pink Brain, Blue Brain, neuroscientist Lise Eliot turns that thinking on its head. Calling on years of exhaustive research and her own work in the field of neuroplasticity, Eliot argues that infant brains are so malleable that small differences at birth become amplified over time, as parents and teachers—and the culture at large—unwittingly reinforce gender stereotypes. Children themselves intensify the differences by playing to their modest strengths. They constantly exercise those “ball-throwing” or “doll-cuddling” circuits, rarely straying from their comfort zones. But this, says Eliot, is just what they need to do, and she offers parents and teachers concrete ways to help. Boys are not, in fact, “better at math” but at certain kinds of spatial reasoning. Girls are not naturally more empathetic; they’re allowed to express their feelings. By appreciating how sex differences emerge—rather than assuming them to be fixed biological facts—we can help all children reach their fullest potential, close the troubling gaps between boys and girls, and ultimately end the gender wars that currently divide us.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The inspiring true story of transgender actor and activist Nicole Maines, whose identical twin brother, Jonas, and ordinary American family join her on an extraordinary journey to understand, nurture, and celebrate the uniqueness in us all.

Nicole appears as TV’s first transgender superhero on CW’s Supergirl

When Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted identical twin boys, they thought their lives were complete. But by the time Jonas and Wyatt were toddlers, confusion over Wyatt’s insistence that he was female began to tear the family apart. In the years that followed, the Maineses came to question their long-held views on gender and identity, to accept Wyatt’s transition to Nicole, and to undergo a wrenching transformation of their own, the effects of which would reverberate through their entire community. Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Amy Ellis Nutt spent almost four years reporting this story and tells it with unflinching honesty, intimacy, and empathy. In her hands, Becoming Nicole is more than an account of a courageous girl and her extraordinary family. It’s a powerful portrait of a slowly but surely changing nation, and one that will inspire all of us to see the world with a little more humanity and understanding.

Named One of the Ten Best Books of the Year by People • One of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review and Men’s Journal • A Stonewall Honor Book in Nonfiction • Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Nonfiction

“Fascinating and enlightening.”—Cheryl Strayed

“If you aren’t moved by Becoming Nicole, I’d suggest there’s a lump of dark matter where your heart should be.”—The New York Times

“Exceptional . . . ‘Stories move the walls that need to be moved,’ Nicole told her father last year. In telling Nicole’s story and those of her brother and parents luminously, and with great compassion and intelligence, that is exactly what Amy Ellis Nutt has done here.”—The Washington Post

“A profoundly moving true story about one remarkable family’s evolution.”—People

“Becoming Nicole is a miracle. It’s the story of a family struggling with—and embracing—a transgender child. But more than that, it’s about accepting one another, and ourselves, in all our messy, contradictory glory.”—Jennifer Finney Boylan, former co-chair of GLAAD and author of She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders
On a sunny fall afternoon in 1988, Jon Sarkin was playing golf when, without a whisper of warning, his life changed forever. As he bent down to pick up his golf ball, something strange and massive happened inside his head; part of his brain seemed to unhinge, to split apart and float away. For an utterly inexplicable reason, a tiny blood vessel, thin as a thread, deep inside the folds of his gray matter had suddenly shifted ever so slightly, rubbing up against his acoustic nerve. Any noise now caused him excruciating pain.

After months of seeking treatment to no avail, in desperation Sarkin resorted to radical deep-brain surgery, which seemed to go well until during recovery his brain began to bleed and he suffered a major stroke. When he awoke, he was a different man. Before the stroke, he was a calm, disciplined chiropractor, a happily married husband and father of a newborn son. Now he was transformed into a volatile and wildly exuberant obsessive, seized by a manic desire to create art, devoting virtually all his waking hours to furiously drawing, painting, and writing poems and letters to himself, strangely detached from his wife and child, and unable to return to his normal working life. His sense of self had been shattered, his intellect intact but his way of being drastically altered. His art became a relentless quest for the right words and pictures to unlock the secrets of how to live this strange new life. And what was even stranger was that he remembered his former self.

In a beautifully crafted narrative, award-winning journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist Amy Ellis Nutt interweaves Sarkin’s remarkable story with a fascinating tour of the history of and latest findings in neuroscience and evolution that illuminate how the brain produces, from its web of billions of neurons and chaos of liquid electrical pulses, the richness of human experience that makes us who we are. Nutt brings vividly to life pivotal moments of discovery in neuroscience, from the shocking “rebirth” of a young girl hanged in 1650 to the first autopsy of an autistic savant’s brain, and the extraordinary true stories of people whose personalities and cognitive abilities were dramatically altered by brain trauma, often in shocking ways.

Probing recent revelations about the workings of creativity in the brain and the role of art in the evolution of human intelligence, she reveals how Jon Sarkin’s obsessive need to create mirrors the earliest function of art in the brain. Introducing major findings about how our sense of self transcends the bounds of our own bodies, she explores how it is that the brain generates an individual “self” and how, if damage to our brains can so alter who we are, we can nonetheless be said to have a soul.

For Jon Sarkin, with his personality and sense of self permanently altered, making art became his bridge back to life, a means of reassembling from the shards of his former self a new man who could rejoin his family and fashion a viable life. He is now an acclaimed artist who exhibits at some of the country’s most prestigious venues, as well as a devoted husband to his wife, Kim, and father to their three children. At once wrenching and inspiring, this is a story of the remarkable human capacity to overcome the most daunting obstacles and of the extraordinary workings of the human mind.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An award-winning guide to the sometimes erratic and confusing behavior of teenage girls that explains what’s going on, prepares parents for what’s to come, and lets them know when it’s time to worry.
 
Look for Under Pressure, the companion guide to coping with stress and anxiety among girls, available now.

In this sane, highly engaging, and informed guide for parents of daughters, Dr. Damour draws on decades of experience and the latest research to reveal the seven distinct—and absolutely normal—developmental transitions that turn girls into grown-ups, including Parting with Childhood, Contending with Adult Authority, Entering the Romantic World, and Caring for Herself. Providing realistic scenarios and welcome advice on how to engage daughters in smart, constructive ways, Untangled gives parents a broad framework for understanding their daughters while addressing their most common questions, including

• My thirteen-year-old rolls her eyes when I try to talk to her, and only does it more when I get angry with her about it. How should I respond?
• Do I tell my teen daughter that I’m checking her phone?
• My daughter suffers from test anxiety. What can I do to help her?
• Where’s the line between healthy eating and having an eating disorder?
• My teenage daughter wants to know why I’m against pot when it’s legal in some states. What should I say?
• My daughter’s friend is cutting herself. Do I call the girl’s mother to let her know?

Perhaps most important, Untangled helps mothers and fathers understand, connect, and grow with their daughters. When parents know what makes their daughter tick, they can embrace and enjoy the challenge of raising a healthy, happy young woman.

BOOKS FOR A BETTER LIFE AWARD WINNER

“Finally, there’s some good news for puzzled parents of adolescent girls, and psychologist Lisa Damour is the bearer of that happy news. [Untangled] is the most down-to-earth, readable parenting book I’ve come across in a long time.”—The Washington Post

“Anna Freud wrote in 1958, ‘There are few situations in life which are more difficult to cope with than an adolescent son or daughter during the attempt to liberate themselves.’ In the intervening decades, the transition doesn’t appear to have gotten any easier which makes Untangled such a welcome new resource.”—The Boston Globe
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