Adolescence: A Second Period of Brain “Plasticity”
The term “brain plasticity” refers to a period when extraordinary brain changeability occurs. This is reflected in the dizzying pace at which the brain acquires new skills. These new skills and abilities are presumably grounded in an elaboration and stabilization of a synaptic architecture constructed as part of the process of learning these new things. Plasticity is important during adolescence because it allows adolescents to learn and adapt, which paves the way for independence. Yet plasticity also increases the vulnerability of adolescents toward making unhealthy decisions because their brain circuitry is still being formed; thus making it difficult for them to think critically before making choices. Neural connections can also be forged and refined or (conversely) weakened and severed during plasticity.1 As such, re-wiring, neuron proliferation and pruning; and the role of experience are described next as part of brain plasticity.