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Module 5 Notes
Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
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The Adolescent Brain

Section 1, Article 5 - The adolescent brain continues to develop but at an uneven rate. For example, the limbic system develops faster than the prefrontal cortex during this developmental stage (; ; ; ; , ). As a result, the reward centers of the brain are more active than the areas responsible for planning and impulse control, and this is especially true when adolescents are with one another. Since the prefrontal cortex is not fully mature in adolescents, their behavior is often characterized by risk and immediate gratification (). Hence, adolescents often react before thinking about the consequences of their behavior, consequently becoming susceptible to some major threats to their well-being. Examples of such threats include the following: tobacco use, alcohol use and abuse, illegal drug use, and sexually transmitted infections.

Despite the hazards associated with adolescent brain development, there are some positives as well. The overabundance of gray matter that is produced during adolescence undergoes a pruning process between adolescence and adulthood. In addition, the brain experiences an increase in myelination, which improves the efficiency of neural message transmission and results in swift reaction times (; ; ). Furthermore, as these processes are carried out in the brain, interconnections within the nervous system are strengthened. As a result, adolescents demonstrate more sophisticated thinking, asserting themselves more and demonstrating greater independence (; ). Moreover, the continued development of the prefrontal cortex makes the brain’s processing centers even more effective. Finally, as the brain’s positive neurotransmitters are activated, adolescents tend to become happier; adolescents may fall in love or dedicate themselves to work and school.

Physical Growth and Nutrition
Adolescent Sexuality