The Anatomical, Hormonal and Neurochemical Changes that Occur During Brain Development in Adolescents and Young Adults

  • Allan Colver
  • Gail Dovey-Pearce


Adolescent development used to be regarded as determined solely by changes in pubertal hormones and social expectations occurring in an unchanging brain. However, over the last 15 years, it has been recognised that the adolescent brain changes anatomically in fundamental ways, as striking as the changes over the first few years of life. Also the period of adolescent brain change lasts longer than that of puberty; adolescent brain maturation extends from 11 to 25 years of age.

New imaging techniques show unequivocal changes in the white and grey matter which take place between 11 and 25 years of age. There is increased connectivity between brain regions and increased dopaminergic activity in the prefrontal cortices, the basal ganglia and limbic system and the pathways linking them. The brain is dynamic, with some areas developing faster and becoming more dominant until other areas catch up. In this chapter we describe new knowledge about changes in brain morphology, pubertal hormones and neurochemistry during adolescence. In the next chapter, we link these changes to some of the behavioural manifestations of adolescence.


Adolescent brain Young adult brain Anatomy Hormones Neurotransmitters 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Health and SocietyNewcastle UniversityNewcastleUK
  2. 2.Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation TrustNorth ShieldsUK

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