The Current

The Teenage Brain: Uniquely powerful, vulnerable, not fully developed

Neuroscientist Frances Jensen researched the teenage brain to try to better understand what her two teenage sons were thinking. Today we explore what she found.
For years, the scientific community believed the adolescent brain was roughly equivalent to the adult one. But neuroscientist Frances Jensen describes how that thinking has been turned on its head over the last decade in her book, "The Teenage Brain." (Ed Yourdon, Flickr cc)

If the human mind is sometimes a puzzle. Then the teenage mind is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Lucky for us, one neuroscientist has just published a guide to that perplexing headspace. Dr. Frances Jensen who was once stumped by the behaviour of her own teens shares years of study on the teenage brain, that will warn you and give you hope.

Dazed and Confused (1993)

The classic 1993 movie Dazed and Confused depicts teenage life as, well... dazed and confused. The Texas teens in the story spend most of their time inebriated, disrespectful, or just plain stupid. Sometimes they even manage all three.

Now -- thankfully -- not every teen follows precisely in the frazzled footsteps of those dazed and confused kids, but practically every teenager has, at some point, left their parents confounded at their behaviour... asking, why oh why do teenagers act the way that teenagers do? It's almost as if they're another species.

Inside your teenager's scary brain -- Tamsin McMahon, Macleans

Dr. Frances Jensen has spent a lot of time studying the teenage brain, and she says that it's definitely human... It's just not yet fully developed. And those days of daze and confusion represent a critical stage, full of vulnerability, and opportunity.

Dr. Frances Jensen chairs the department of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. She's written a new book called, "The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults."

We want to hear from you. What was the dumbest thing you did in your teens? What do you see in your own teenagers? Or are you teen with thoughts to share on this segment?

Tweet us @thecurrentcbc. Or e-mail us through our website. Find us on Facebook. Call us toll-free at 1 877 287 7366. And as always if you missed anything on The Current, grab a podcast.

This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?