By Elaine Ubina

A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents & Young Adults

As many of you know, one of my current obsessions is brain health, specifically the teenage brain. How cool to get the chance for a one-on-one Zoom with the guru and author of the book, The Teenage Brain, A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults!

Thanks to the Greenwich United Way, Frances E. Jensen, MD will be the keynote speaker at the Sole Sisters Luncheon on Thursday, April 25th. Click here to get your ticket, before they sell out! This is the opportunity to learn everything you need to know about how your child’s brain is developing, keeping it safe and tactics on how to navigate the minefield of screens, social media and peer pressure. If you don’t have teens yet – you’re going to want to hear this talk and if your children are already grown, you will be nodding your head when Dr. Jensen talks about risky behavior and the development of the frontal lobe, along with all the newest dangers that have popped up to keep us from sleeping at night – like our kids are taking less risks because they are over-surveilled. Dr. Jensen will also be talking about the aging brain and taking care of it to avoid dementia! Something we all need to know.

Dr. Frances Jensen, MD, is a renowned neuroscientist, physician, and educator whose work has significantly contributed to our understanding of adolescent brain development. Jensen’s research focuses on the developmental changes that occur in the brain during adolescence and how these changes influence behavior, learning, and decision-making.

She grew up in Greenwich and was a Lifer at Greenwich Academy. She’s returning for her 50th reunion this year! Her father was a doctor at Greenwich Hospital, and she felt that “biology was magic” in high school. She knew she wanted to pursue medicine when she dissected the fetal pig. Dr. Jensen earned her BA from Cornell University before receiving her medical degree at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Jensen completed her residency in neurology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where she also served as Chief Resident in Neurology. She later pursued fellowship training in epilepsy and neurophysiology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital in Boston.

Dr. Jensen has held faculty positions at Harvard Medical School for 30 years and Children’s Hospital Boston. Currently, she is a Professor of Neurology and Chair of the Department of Neurology and Co-Director Penn Medicine Translational Neuroscience Center, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.

Jensen’s groundbreaking research has shed light on the unique vulnerabilities and strengths of the adolescent brain. “Teens have superpowers, they are learning machines.” Her work has highlighted how factors such as synaptic pruning, myelination, and neurotransmitter function contribute to cognitive and emotional development during adolescence. She has also explored the impact of sleep, stress, social media, ADHD and substance abuse on the teenage brain. “We don’t know the effects of digital media.” She mentioned a  study on the differences between the Millennial, Gen Z and Gen Alpha. The hours they are spending on their screens are increasing and the amount of time they exercise is decreasing.

Dr. Jensen is concerned that contemporary teens face excessive pressure: “They don’t have the chance to make a mistake.” As parents, we must establish “tasks for failure” at home, providing “learning moments / frontal lobe assists” crucial for growth and experience. Without these, teens may succumb to depression and anxiety.

Through her research, teaching, and advocacy efforts, Dr. Frances Jensen continues to advance our understanding of the adolescent brain and its implications for health, education, and society. We are excited to welcome Dr. Jensen back to Greenwich at the Sole Sisters Luncheon!  Hope to see you there and to grow our knowledge together!

Greenwich United Way Sole Sisters Luncheon Tickets