Back from the SRA (after a Giedd joke)

Back from the SRA (after a Giedd joke)
Thursday, 13 March 2008 - 9:54am

Back in the UK there is some time to think about the overall themes of the SRA conference this year. There’s a vast number of papers; around 12 or more parallel symposia at any one time, all consisting of three or four papers. Still, I think it’s fair to say that the conference this time reflected a general interest in well-being, not just problematic behavior. It also suggested that study of brain development in adolescence is reasonably mainstream now. Parenting, peers, romantic relationships, identity development, risk behavior, citizenship and participation all got the usual look-in.

On Saturday Dr Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health showed how the field is moving forwards. His talk “The teen brain: Insights from neuroimaging” was a model of how to communicate complex messages in a simple, elegant way, and one that highlighted the policy and practice implications. You can see a transcript of an interview with Giedd here.

He emphasized the importance of longitudinal data (in this case from brain imaging) in unpicking trajectories of development through adolescence, rather than looking cross-sectionally at just a couple of time points. He showed how intricate and interesting the patterns of development can be, and how much is changing during the second decade. He encouraged us to drop the usual either/or models (is it emotion that’s important? Or reasoning?) and to see how things work together (it’s the effect of emotion on reasoning). And he made us laugh. What more can you ask?

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