The Mysterious Workings of the Adolescent Brain: A Virtual Visit with Cognitive Scientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

May 1, 2014

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore delivers a lively TED talk and recorded interview. She introduces the ways the adolescent brain is different from the adult brain and provides a glimpse at how one leading neuroscientist in the field approaches her work. commentary: The Adolescent Brain
TED Talk: The Mysterious Workings of the Adolescent Brain

Audience: Educators, Pre-service educators, parents

Potential Use: Professional Development – self-guided
Viewing one or both of these resources would be an excellent opportunity for individual professional learning.


Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, UK, focuses her research on the development of social cognition and executive function in the typically developing adolescent brain, using a variety of behavioral and neuroimaging methods. The TED Talk and commentary featured here offer a lively introduction to the ways the adolescent brain is different from the adult brain and a glimpse at how one leading neuroscientist in the field approaches her work.

TED Talk: Why do teenagers seem so much more impulsive, so much less self-aware than grown-ups? In her remarkable TED Talk, “The Mysterious Workings of the Adolescent Brain,” cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore compares the prefrontal cortex in adolescents to that of adults, to show us how typically “teenage” behavior is caused by the growing and developing brain. She explains how the still maturing adolescent brain negotiates “executive” tasks like planning, self-awareness, and behavioral choices. commentary: In this wide-ranging interview at, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore tells how she became interested in studying the adolescent brain—wondering why so much adult mental illness begins in adolescence and why accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers. She describes the experiments and neuroimaging methods she and her colleagues use to peer inside the adolescent brain.

Good to know: a Road Map to this Resource


The TED Talk featured here is about 15 minutes long. The video of the Edge commentary is about 30 minutes.


None required.

Content Map

The Edge commentary is available from their site as a transcript or video located on the right hand side.

Navigation Tips

  • On the Edge webpage check out Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s bio under “people” in the upper right.
  • From the Edge webpage, follow a link in the lower right to buy her book, The Learning Brain: Lessons for Education from


TED Commentary: Read or add your own comments on the TED Talk in the “Discuss” section. (Sign-in required.)

How does this align with student-centered learning research and practice?

In these featured talks, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore reminds us that the brain’s plasticity has tremendous implications for educational and intervention programs for high school-aged youth. Her research aligns closely with the synopsis of current research in the area of Mind, Brain, and Education conducted for Students at the Center. It also connects to the Students at the Center Framework, supporting all of the four tenets.

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