Watch What Were You Thinking?: A Neuroscientist’s Explanation of Teenage Decision Making

Written by: The Exchange

Teenagers often make questionable choices – ones that routinely prompt parents to ask this question without any expectation of a satisfying answer. The stereotypes from film and television make this stage of life feel especially scary. But neuroscientist Adriana Galván says that these decisions and that this period of adolescence are critical in the cycle of brain development. Recent advances in our understanding of the brain have further informed our grasp on adolescence. Expanding our recognition for the ways in which normal cognitive and social behaviors change from childhood to adulthood will not only soothe stressed parents, but it will also help us create informed youth-related policies in a host of sectors, ranging from the juvenile justice to education. Be sure to join us for this compelling conversation between Adriana and film and television director, Jon Amiel.


Dr. Adriana Galván is a Professor of Psychology, director of the Developmental Neuroscience Lab and Dean of Undergraduate Education at the University of California, Los Angeles.  She also co-leads the Center for the Developing Adolescent.  Her research examines the neural mechanisms underlying adolescent behavior to inform youth-relevant policy. She received her B.A. from Barnard College and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Cornell. Recent awards include a Fulbright Award and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Jon Amiel is a film and television director/producer/writer whose feature film credits include Creation, a critically acclaimed portrait of Charles Darwin, starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly;  The Core, with Hilary Swank and Aaron Eckart; Entrapment with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones; Copycat with Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter; and Sommersby with Richard Gere and Jodie Foster. Jon’s many television  credits include  Carnival Row, The Walking Dead, Halt & Catch FireAmerican Gods,  and 7 Seconds. 

The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.