UCL SLMS Prof Sarah Jayne Blakemore
Neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore of University College London (UCL) received the 2015 Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize in recognition of her ground-breaking achievements in child and youth development.
Until about 15 years ago, the prevailing opinion amongst neuroscientists was that no major neurodevelopmental changes occur after early childhood; Blakemore has delivered a body of scientific evidence demonstrating that the adolescent brain is continuing to develop.
The social brain develops in adolescence
Her research shows that in adolescence changes occur in the processing of emotional and social information about other people, as well as self-awareness and decision-making. Her findings demonstrate that neural responses to social exclusion, risky decisions and the interpretation of social emotions continue to develop during adolescence. The social brain, that is the brain regions involved in understanding other people, undergoes structural changes and functional reorganization during the second decade of life, possibly reflecting a sensitive period for adapting to one’s social environment. Thus, typical adolescent behavior should not be chiefly attributed to hormones and to changes in the social environment. Instead it is at least partly linked to biological developments in the brain that are adaptive, natural, and inevitable. Typical adolescent behavior, such as risk-taking and peer influence, may be advantageous since it is intrinsically rooted in human development, and therefore, should be reframed as exploratory and potentially socially beneficial as opposed to only risky and problematic.
It is truly humbling that my lab’s research has been recognized by this prestigious award
UCL Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore
“It is a great honor to be awarded the Klaus J Jacobs Prize. I am indebted beyond words to my mentors and to all the people who have worked in my team at UCL over the past 13 years, and I am grateful to the many children and young people who have taken part in our studies and the schools that support our research. I am also grateful to the colleagues who nominated me for this award. I feel privileged to work with such inspiring and supportive people”, says Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London.