The Brain: Structure vs. Function

Generally speaking, functions in the brain are localized. That is, related functions occur in different parts of the brain. The diagram to the left shows some of these regions. We will look at them in more detail in future articles. For now, what’s important to understand is that the brain has different regions,  and each region specializes in different things.

One of he most important parts of brain function is the communication between these regions.

When we talk about brain growth, we look at two different kinds of growth: structural & connective. The physical growth of the brain is largely complete by age 12, and is less than half the story. The brain continues to develop and strengthen new connections in hugely significant ways through the mid-20s. In fact, the development of these connections is so important to brain function that scientists are presently trying to map them all in the Human Connectome Project. The colorful image to the right gives us an idea of just how complex these connections are.

So what does all of this mean for those of us working with teens?

It means that, although they look like adults, teenage brains are not fully developed and are not capable of consistently doing all of the things that adult brains do.

In our next article, we will look more closely at these connections and how they reveal some of the most important differences between teen and adult brains.


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