The Brain and Adolescence

Professor David Skuse discusses whether what happens to the brain during adolescence is analogous to what happens in brain-injury autism.

So, it is possible to look at the way in which we interpret social information through the lifespan. So, we’ve been doing studies over the last few years in which we’ve been measuring how good people are at interpreting other people’s social behavior from the time they enter school right through adolescence. Now, interestingly, most social skills of that type get better through childhood, that’s pretty much what we expect by the way they get better a little faster in girls than boys, but boys are beginning to catch up by the time we get to puberty. Now, an interesting thing happens in puberty, there seems to be a decrease in your social skills and by this I mean the ability to interpret other people’s social behavior, not just the way in which you behave, but the way in which you process social information. There is a little dip before you then start to accelerate again and you reach adult levels and mid to late adolescence-adult levels of ability, but it would appear for both boys and girls, a little earlier for girls because they go into puberty earlier, there is a decrease and it’s not very great, but it might explain why kids entering adolescence sometimes seem so socially inept. For some reason there the brain reorganizes itself. At that time of puberty they are having great difficulty reading people’s social cues accurately.

brain injury, social behavior, puberty, adolescence, autism

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