Testing Teenagers and Examining Stress

Headshot-BlakemoreExams can be nerve-wracking to even the most prepared. In England, a roller coaster of emotions has been on display as the nation’s series of grueling public exams, the General Certificate for Secondary Education (GCSE), were proctored earlier this summer. The highly anticipated test grades were finally made public last week, and while the unveiling of the results may have brought about much-needed relief for some, the pressure and preparation needed to do well for others branded the two-year journey with a relentless villain—stress.

The anxiety-inducing exam was the focus of a thought-provoking article in The Guardian that featured Dana Alliance member Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University College London and author of Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain. The self-described champion of teenagers touches on the rash timing and the dread of the exams endured by the 15- and 16-year-olds during a period that she says is critical in a developing brain. From the interview:

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National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week (January 25-31)


On Monday, National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week began, sparking local events across the country in an effort to “shatter the myths” about drugs and alcohol, particularly among teens.

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Inside the Teenage Brain

If I could turn back time and re-live certain years of my life, I wouldn’t choose my teenage years. Asking my parents’ permission for everything, trying to fit in with my peers, and going through various awkward stages? Yeah, I think once was enough.

According to a recent LiveScience article, adolescence is one of the times when the most growth happens in the brain. Not only is puberty taking place, which is already an awkward stage, but the brain also plays a role in the random tantrums, indecisiveness, and uncertainty that sometimes takes place at this point in a teen’s life.

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The Changing Teenage Brain

“The teen brain is not a broken or defective adult brain,” Dr. Jay Giedd told an auditorium full of teachers at last week’s Learning and the Brain Symposium.

But it is in a period of great change and opportunities.

“The long development period gives the brain more time to become specialized.” Giedd, chief of the Unit on Brain Imaging in the Child Psychiatry Branch at the National Institute for Mental Health, thinks this can be “empowering for teens” as they try new things and build the skills that could shape the rest of their lives. “Plasticity has vulnerabilities, but has many, many upsides.”

Just what is happening inside an adolescent’s brain?

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