• Scientists now know that the human brain continues to undergo critical development throughout adolescence into the mid-20’s.
  • Areas in the back of the brain such as those involved in vision and physical coordination mature before those in the front of the brain.
  • The prefrontal cortex, responsible for higher level functions such as organization, planning, self-control, emotional regulation, and judgment, is the last part of the brain to develop.
  • To function well, inter-connections within the brain between the prefrontal cortex and other areas need to be strengthened so that the "brakes" can be quickly applied when needed.
  • This brain “connectivity,” which is the brain’s information superhighway, is still developing in adolescence.
  • A teen’s ability to control his/her emotions and impulses, or make sound decisions, is not the same as an adult’s.
  • That is why teens are more likely to impulsively try dangerous things such as speed on a motorcycle or experiment with alcohol or drugs.
  • Teens may feel more of a high than adults when they do things that are highly pleasurable, and get more quickly hooked on those things.
  • Areas in the middle of the brain that make up the “reward pathway” and memory system are developing rapidly during adolescence.
  • The brain’s memory and reward systems make us remember, and want to do again and again, the things that give us pleasure.
  • Using drugs is like taking a shortcut and getting a counterfeit high, rather than the natural high that comes from pleasures such as winning a hard-fought game, or doing well on a test.
  • The memory of that intense, easy high from drugs is implanted in the brain and makes a person crave it, possibly for life.
  • This is what causes addiction.