Monday, August 1, 2022



At WAVE, we talk often about the primary importance of the early years of life. But they are not the only years during which our brain and body experience rapid changes.

Want to get a beginner's grounding in adolescent brain development? Holding an audience's attention for a 90-minute lecture isn't easy, but this woman had me captivated throughout. Great speaker, lots of relatable anecdotes and well worth a watch. See the full 5-part list of videos here. Some of my key takeaways:

  • Study showed teenagers recognising emotions in face photos only 50% of times, adults managed 100%. How can they respond effectively if they can't always read the situation?
  • 10-13 years-old = second major growth spurt in neural connections (after early years). Can have optimal learning potential then if you repeatedly follow certain patterns, it can strengthen neural pathways associated with them.
  • Teenagers experience difficulties with some aspects of executive functioning, inc initiating tasks; retaining information while doing something with it (e.g. typing number into phone); communicating details in organised manner; memory retrieval; lesser ability to resist impulses; taking moral responsibility; anticipating consequences.
  • Late average bedtimes can lead to sleep deprivation, can lead to lower executive functioning.
  • Between 14 and 25, there's a big gap between intellectual brain development and psychosocial development, with the latter rapidly catching up in the early 20s (the implications for policies here could be huge).
  • If stuck with trauma, focusing on coping with it daily, rather than developing other neural pathways, can leave you at a disadvantage later in life due to this, even if you do manage to cope with the former at the time.



Aidan Phillips is Trauma-informed Communities Project Manager at WAVE Trust.