Kids, Language & Brains


Arriving at a Mature Brain

Pinpointing a specific time when a brain can be described as mature is a suspect endeavor. For not only is there no one-size fits all time for an individual brain's maturity, there is no one-size fits all method for measuring brain maturity, according to Abigail Baird, a neuroscientist at Vassar College and a Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DBI) member.  Historically, age 18 has been identified as the age of maturity but that's quite arbitrary.  Maturation is about the refinement of circuits and larger networks that produce increasingly coordinated behaviors and brain activity.  Those refinements and improvements in neural coordination are heavily dependent on neurobiology, practice and experience, not to mention individual differences.  As juvenile courts begin taking increased notice of the psychological research on brain development, it is more important than ever for brain science studies to be correctly considered in law and policy decisions.  B.J. Casey, DBI member and director of the Fundamentals of the Adolescent Brain (FAB) at Yale University says using the very term maturity sets us up for failure.  She argues that while there is no single point in time when the brain does everything well, that doesn't mean young people can't make good decisions. As science and public policy meet, it seems as if the real danger is the potential misuse of scientific research. Casey sees close collaboration of scientists and lawmakers as the best way to assure accurate interpretation and application of research findings. Such an outcome stands to benefit society as well as adolescents working their way to maturity.  Kayt Sukel, Briefing Paper, The Dana Foundation, April 4, 2017.

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