Puberty and Brain Development
Advances in brain research have shown that “raging hormones” are not the only explanation for erratic adolescent behavior. Researchers are still trying to establish the exact nature of the interrelationships between pubertal processes and adolescent brain development.
According to Dr. Ronald Dahl, Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics and member of the New York Academy of Sciences, brain research has revealed three categories of brain changes related to puberty:
The timing of these brain changes may underlie many aspects of adolescent behavior and risk taking.
As for the brain changes that precede puberty, the brain itself initiates puberty by releasing the requisite hormones. Brain changes that are the consequence of puberty appear to occur mainly in the structures of the brain most closely linked with emotion, arousal and motivation, and with appetite and sleep patterns. (See Action in the Limbic System). Brain changes independent of puberty, as indicated by adolescent brain research, are those related to the development of advanced cognitive functioning. (See Maturation of the Prefrontal Cortex).1