This woman wants to get inside teenagers’ grey matter — by scanning their brains. “Ten years ago, there was virtually nothing out there about adolescents’ brains,” says Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London. “MRI scanning reveals how they change, well into adulthood.”
When Blakemore, 37, began studying teenagers’ brains through behavioural testing and MRI scans eight years ago, she found that the parts of the brain responsible for empathy and social intelligence were soft and constantly morphing. Other studies showed that brains adapt and learn well into adulthood — an important implication for education. "If a child in the UK falls through the net early, the political thinking is that it’s too late to spend public money on them," she says. "That’s not true — funding should be maintained through to their twenties."
To this end, she has helped to set up the Centre for Educational Neuroscience, an inter-institutional project in London which aims to influence educational policy. “We need to instil confidence in teenagers,” she says. As long as they tidy their rooms first.