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What were you thinking?!
Until about 20 years ago, the technology to look inside the brain did not exist. It was posited and widely accepted that the brain was formed and set by about age 3. Thanks to the use of MRI, science could see in glorious color (see above image) that the teenager, in addition to going through puberty, is still undergoing major brain change. In the source article from HowStuffWorks.com, the author provides the helpful imagery showing the teen brain, as an entertainment system, not fully assembled:
"There are loose wires, so that the speaker system isn't working with the DVD player, which in turn, hasn't been formatted to work with the television yet. And to top it all off, the remote hasn't even arrived!"
While the adult brain uses its various parts to work in unison to function (make decisions, evaluate options, understand reason, etc), the teenage brain has not been fully 'hooked up' to do so. Within the parts not fully developed are the sections of the brain that are responsible for evaluating and making decisions, self-control, judgement, emotional regulation, self-awareness, rational thought and reading and responding to the behavior of others. Many of these areas will not reach full maturity until the early 20's.
While much of the brain seems to be lagging behind when if comes to development, another section, the nucleus accumbens, is reasonably well-developed. This is the section the brain that seeks pleasure and reward.
Underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, developed nucleus accumbens and add hormones into the mix...
Source site: HERE
TED talk video: HERE