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Shelley Walcott on teen brain discoveries

story.shelley.jpg
Shelley Walcott  

December 5, 2000
Web posted at: 5:54 PM EST (2254 GMT)

CNN NEWSROOM anchor/correspondent Shelley Walcott reports on scientific discoveries about the adolescent brain and the far-reaching effects of the research.

Q: What major discoveries have been made about development of the teen brain?

WALCOTT: Until the past decade, neuroscientists believed the brain was fully developed by the time a child reached puberty. Turns out, that's not the case. A newly developed brain scanning technique called magnetic resonance imaging has allowed scientists to study the human brain in ways never thought possible. As a result, researchers now know that the teen brain is still a work in progress. They say the brain develops in fits and starts, with neural growth spurts that seem to coincide with important leaps in learning abilities.

Q: What do researchers think this means for teens?

WALCOTT: Scientists think their research shows that hormones aren't the only reason teens sometimes act crazy. For example, one of the last parts of the brain to mature is the area in charge of making sound decisions and calming unruly behavior. Which might explain why a normally intelligent 16-year-old may not think twice about getting into a car with a friend who's been drinking.

Q: What do scientists expect from future brain research?

WALCOTT: Scientists continue to probe the teen brain, and they say their research has important implications in the area of education. The latest research has scientists re-thinking the best times for teens to pick up new skills, like learning a new language or playing an instrument. Stay tuned!



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