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The Teen Brain: Half Baked or Well Done?

Thursday, March 5, 2020

6:30 – 7:30 PM | Lecture


The Rockefeller University
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Hall
1230 York Avenue at East 66th Street


BJ Casey, Ph.D.

Director, Fundamentals of the Adolescent Brain Lab
Professor of Psychology
Yale University


Leslie B. Vosshall, Ph.D.

Robin Chemers Neustein Professor
Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior
The Rockefeller University

The teenage brain has become something of a media darling. A crucial transitional period, adolescence is often characterized by heightened sensitivity to rewards, threats, and social influences, as well as an increase in impulsivity, novelty seeking, and risky behavior. Recent advances in human brain imaging now enable us to observe the teen brain in action, gaining new insights into why adolescents experience and respond to the world in distinctive ways. These studies are revealing that the brain is more plastic during adolescence than it will ever be again, and capable of remarkable adaptability.

What circumstances lead adolescents to make bad choices, compared to children and adults? What situations might cause adolescents to make even better choices than adults? When is the adolescent brain functionally mature? On Thursday, March 5, BJ Casey will address these questions and discuss why the seemingly deviant behaviors of adolescence are actually an intrinsic part of brain maturation.

A world leader in the field of developmental neuroscience, Dr. Casey is a professor of psychology and director of the Fundamentals of the Adolescent Brain (FAB) Lab at Yale University. She is also a guest investigator in the McEwen lab at Rockefeller. In the early 1990s, Dr. Casey pioneered the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the developing human brain. Her research has important implications for juvenile justice and mental health policy reform, and her discoveries have been highlighted by National Geographic, The New York Times, Newsweek, NPR, and PBS. Dr. Casey has received many distinguished honors, including the Ruane Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Research. In 2015, Thomson Reuters recognized Dr. Casey on their annual list of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds.