Earlier in 2016, researchers from Leiden University, led by Professor Eveline Crone launched a film called Braintime. The film summarises the results of an impressive longitudinal study, where adolescents performed tasks inside a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. The same participants returned to the scanner throughout the course of the study, allowing the researchers to track changes in brain function throughout development.
The film provides an insight into the workings of MRI studies, and the kinds of questions we can ask. In particular, these researchers were interested in reward processing, social development, and learning through the teenage years. One finding was that there appears to be a peak in the reward centre of the brain during adolescence which may help to explain risky teenage behaviour. An exciting finding for me was that performance in a task that participants completed inside the scanner predicted school performance two years later. This is encouraging as it means that the tasks that are performed in a tightly controlled lab setting can have some bearing on real world learning: it helps to validate our use of MRI scanners as a tool for testing cognition.
Throughout the 30 minute film, there are interviews with teenagers which allow us to hear their perspective - something which we don't get to hear in typical scientific dissemination. I recommend this film for anyone who is interested in the development of the adolescent brain and what this means for adolescent behaviour. It's exciting to see how much research has already been done in this relatively new area. This field of research is ever growing, so I hope we'll get to see another instalment summarising the next five years of research in 2021!
You can watch the film here: http://www.brainanddevelopmentlab.nl/index.php/braintime