Development of the Adolescent Brain with TBI Added into the Mix

The goal of teenagers is to find out who they are. How does a brain injury at 15, 16, 17 years of age change all of that?

See more video clips with Dr. Mariann Young.

[Mariann Young, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Rainbow Rehabilitation Centers, Inc.] During adolescence, the brain is not formed, and truly, the growth occurs in what we call executive functioning, and executive functioning is your ability to plan. It's your ability to organize, it's your ability to defer gratification so that you don't just make impossible decisions. You can see the big picture, and you can form different hypotheses. Everything is not black and white. In adolescence, that's just not formed, and what we found out is that it truly doesn't form—your brain really isn't complete until about the age of 25, which means, of course, then adolescence goes through the age of 25. Kids can think logically, so by the time they're 15 and 16 they really do know how to think logically, but they don't make logical decisions, and that's because of this lack of formation with the executive functioning. If someone is injured during the adolescent years, it's devastating, and development changes—the way they view themselves changes. It has very serious consequences, and now I'm discussing not only a mild injury which post concussion may take 2 years for a teen to recover, but a more moderate or a severe injury, and especially in dealing with a teen that perhaps doesn't have physical disabilities, and yet, they know they're different. During adolescent years, what we do know is that their whole goal is to find out who they are, what's their identity. So, can you imagine at 16 or 17, when you think you have a handle on yourself, and then you have an injury that completely changes the way you think, the way you react, the way you normally would look at a situation, and it's different, but you don't want to admit it because your goal is to fit in. It's to figure out who you are, and yet, you're someone different, but you don't know who you are. Then, your friends react differently to you. Your parents react differently to you. You may do things that in the past you could control. You may act out impulsively, and you would never do that. Your studying is different. What if you were the star athlete? What if you were the A student who didn't have to study, who just glanced at material, but now, you have to? Now, words don't make sense. Now, you can't remember. Plus, your brain isn't developed, and it's not going to go along that course of development that it was on. So, you don't have the opportunity to practice the things that you've learned, you're still growing, and it has terribly devastating effects. []
Posted on BrainLine May 1, 2014.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Justin Rhodes, BrainLine.

Comments (1)

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My niece was in an auto accident on Aug 6 2018. She's been at St.Louis Children's ever since. She does make progress every week but this article makes me more concerned than I already was. I have read many times that the young mind has a better chance of recovery than an older mind, however, what you write makes since. How can they relearn something they didn't have yet. My niece was a cheerleader who made straight A's who was already going to college every day her junior year and what was going to be her senior year has so far been in the hospital. She would have graduated with her high school diploma and an associates degree. We don't know how far she'll go. This is hard to read and accept.