The Evolving Brain of the Emerging Adult

Presentation First Author: 
Stephen Wood

Although adolescence certainly begins with the onset of puberty and covers the teenage years from the age of 13 to age 19, it is not defined by specific events. In particular, the end of adolescence is much debated and is likely to be associated with taking on adult roles and responsibilities rather than a biological marker. The developmental changes through this period promote the skills necessary to take on these responsibilities and alter the way we interact with others, but they also make young people more vulnerable to problems of emotional or behavioural control. Indeed, there is a dramatic increase in rates of death and injury between childhood and adolescence, largely related to the emergence of mental disorder. Schizophrenia and depression typically appear after puberty, with an average age of onset for both of around 20 years. Substance use disorders follow a similar course, suggesting that adolescence is a key period that sets the stage for potentially a lifetime free from or full of mental ill health. In this talk I will describe the major behavioural and biological changes in adolescence, and explain how they not only result in improved mental abilities but greater risk to mental health - and what we might do about them.

Conference Name: 
Presentation Date: 
November, 2013
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