What happens in the brain of teens 11 to 14 years old

Physiological and mental changes in adolescent teenagers 11 to 14 years old

Effects of puberty

Puberty is characterized by accelerated physical growth of bones and muscles, accompanied by psychological changes that ultimately lead to sexual maturation. Its onset typically occurs at ages 9-12 for girls and 11-14 for boys.

1. They begin to be conscious of how they look

The increased hormone activity of an early teen begins to affect their height, weight, and emotions. Their physique changes, and they become conscious of how they look.

You may notice changes in hygiene and how they assert what they will wear, hairstyle, and vanity.

2. Heightened sexual desire and emotions

The human brain is not fully developed when a person reaches puberty. Between the ages of 10 and 25, the brain undergoes changes that affect behavior physiology. Teenagers experience sudden and rapid growth triggered by the pituitary gland.

This gland in the brain secretes a surge of hormonal agents into the bloodstream, initiating a chain reaction. Also known as the “master gland,” it affects the entire body, particularly sexual development and emotions.

3. Impulsive and desire for adventure

The circulatory and respiratory systems are primarily affected at this age, resulting in significant growth of muscles and bones. This is accompanied by changes in emotions, leading to a strong inclination towards physical activities.

Engaging in activities such as biking is encouraged, as it caters to their muscles’ needs and their desire to explore.

However, caution must be taken as they may become more impulsive and reckless due to the still-developing reasoning part of their brain.

4. Increased capacity to understand and reason

As the brain develops during adolescence, the amount of “white matter” in the brain increases, while the “gray matter” is pruned, called synaptic pruning.

The brain appears to be destroying itself. However, pruning makes it more efficient due to increased myelination (insulation of axons or nerve fibers) and the reduction of new pathways (neurons). [1]

IMPORTANT: The brain should be well-fed before synaptic pruning occurs.

The process of synaptic pruning leads to an improvement in how teens process information. As a result, their logic and reasoning abilities advance, making it difficult to outsmart them as if they were children.

However, this pruning process also entails the brain selectively cutting or retaining specific “circuits.” Children have a greater ability to absorb information, such as learning multiple languages, compared to adults.

If a second language is acquired before puberty, it is more likely to be retained. In contrast, learning a new language in college may be forgotten unless it is used frequently in daily life.

All these things should be taught earlier than they are being taught; that is one lesson we know about the pruning process,” says Dr. Dan Siegel, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine.

Learning things like a foreign language, dancing, or music should be taught before the puberty stage or before High School.

5. Emotional vulnerability and rebellion

Teenagers at this stage of brain development have a better evaluation of risks and rewards. They have improved brain processes, leading to a better understanding of the consequences.

Teenage Rebellion

  • Teenagers tend to have better logical reasoning than their parents, but their lack of life experience can lead to flawed logic and conflicts.
  • This can result in teenage rebellion, as they may feel misunderstood or limited by their parents’ rules and expectations.

Increased Sensitivity

  • While teens may become less impulsive, they often become more sensitive and vulnerable to the words and actions of their parents.
  • Parents should engage teens in conversations about adult reasoning, as they are capable of handling analytical thinking and may benefit from a better understanding of their parents’ perspectives.

Parents should talk to teens with adult reasoning because they can handle analytical thinking

pituitary gland of teenager
The pituitary is a small pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain. This “master gland” releases many hormones important in a teen’s physical and emotional development. Read more: Understanding the prefrontal cortex.

Understanding synaptic pruning

Synaptic or axon pruning starts near birth and is completed by sexual maturation (puberty). The “extra neurons” (cells that process and transmit information) are eliminated to improve the efficiency of neural transmission (brain signals).

During puberty, synapses experience growth spurts, and effective communication between nerve cells depends on neurotransmitters, which act as chemical messengers. Greater availability of neurotransmitters leads to better brain communication.

Important neurotransmitters

axon synaptic terminal

Neurotransmission (communication between neurons) is an electrical impulse that travels from an axon (slender projection of a nerve cell) to the synaptic terminal. Also called “chemical messengers,” it is vital for communication between two neurons.

A neuron is a basic unit of the brain designed to transmit information to other nerve cells, muscle, or gland cells

Synaptic transmission relies on the availability of the neurotransmitter, which means that the more neurotransmitter there is, the better the synapse (brain communication) occurs.

Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC)

The “Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex” (DLPFC) covers the front part of the frontal lobe. It is the last part of the brain to mature or until age 24. DLPFC affects motivation, mood, and general emotions and the most significant change in the brain happens at the prefrontal cortex.

frontal love

The Executive Function of DLPFC

Also known as the frontal lobe has the “Executive Function.” It’s responsible for abstract reasoning and decision-making.

The overall personality of a teenager

What we can learn from the data

They begin to be conscious of how they look.Always compliment them verbally.
Heightened sexual desire and emotions.Encourage more sports and physical activities.
Increased brain capacity to understand and reason.Allow them to experience consequences.
Increased desire for adventureInvest in a family vacation and their interest.
Emotional vulnerability and rebellionStop talking when they are stressed. Provide a healthy diet to boost brain activity, and always pray for them.

Christian parents’ takeaway

Although teenagers can better process emotions, they struggle to submit because of conflicting wants and needs. Their desire for more freedom causes them to be rebellious toward their parents and authority.

A child may also be open to demonic influences. Their sinful nature is usually evident at this age. It does not mean they are possessed but tempted to rebel or dwell on anger.

Thus, their spiritual well-being should be developed through discipleship rooted in a positive relationship.

What Christian parents can do

1. Encourage them to do their quiet time at bedtime.
2. Pray with your teens daily, declaring victory in Christ.
3. Anoint them with oil while speaking life!
4. Fast for them at least once a month.
5. Encourage them to join Youth Fellowship and retreat.


[1] NCBI
[2] Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
[3] Children autism
[4] NCBI
[5] NCBI
[6] Adolescence
[7] NCBI
[8] Low serotonin linked to depression
[9] Laminine FGF

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