Neurologist Jensen to focus on teenage brain



Week Two at Chautauqua Institution attempts to understand the beings from Mars. Titled “Boys Will Be Boys, Then Men,” this week focuses on the Y chromosome.

Frances Jensen, co-author of The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults, is chair of the Department of Neurology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She will talk about her work and her book at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater.

“My book is discussing how this [teenage years] is a very special time in development and how we need to think about it societally,” Jensen said. “The brain is the last organ in the body to develop and doesn’t mature until the mid-20s, hence boys are behind girls during this process, and they need extra time in some realms.”

A mother to two young sons herself, Jensen’s book was a result of extensive research during their teenage years as she was trying to understand their changing behaviors.

“Being a neurologist and a neuroscientist, I worked on a lot of lab experiments to understand brain development,” Jensen said. “It was then I realized I have two experiments going on at home, and I really wanted to understand them and what was it about their brain development that was making them behave the way they did.”

Jensen talks about the frontal lobe at various points in her book. She will discuss this region of the brain during her talk as well. The frontal lobe is responsible for higher mental processes such as thinking, decision-making and planning — things that teenage boys usually lack.

“During the process of brain development, the frontal lobes are the last to connect and the process is not done until 20,” Jensen said. “Males actually are about two to three years behind females.”

While their brains need extra time to develop, teenage boys have some hidden talents too, something that Jensen will touch upon during her lecture.

“Teenage boys can learn faster and change their IQs during these years,” Jensen said.