Sarah-Jayne Blakemore: “The Teenager’s Sense of Social Self” | Edge.org
There are many, many questions that still remain to be looked at in this area, but one of them is whether adolescence represents a sensitive period for brain development. You'll hear a lot of people talking about adolescence as representing a second sensitive period of brain development, but we don't have very much data on that.
We know from studies on early development of the brain, both from humans and non-human animals, that the brain undergoes different "sensitive periods" of development, meaning there are periods of development where the brain is particularly susceptible to certain types of environmental stimuli. We know lots about this in domains such as sensory input, and also language input in the first few years of life, just to name a couple of examples.
Given that the brain is undergoing a lot of development during adolescence, particularly in areas like prefrontal cortex and other cortical areas, many people have suggested that this might represent a window of opportunity—a second sensitive period for learning in cognitive and social domains. There is very little evidence on this yet. It makes a lot of sense, but it's still an open question. It's something that we and other labs are currently looking at, but again, there's not much to say about it yet because there are a couple of studies suggesting it might be in some domains.