Adolescence refers to the period of physical and psychological development between childhood and adulthood. The beginning of adolescence is loosely anchored to the onset of puberty, which brings dramatic alterations in hormone levels and a number of consequent physical changes. Puberty onset is also associated with profound changes in drives, motivations, psychology, and social life; these changes continue throughout adolescence. There is an increasing number of neuroimaging studies looking at the development of the brain, both structurally and functionally, during adolescence. Almost all of these studies have defined development by chronological age, which shows a strong-but not unitary-correlation with pubertal stage. Very few neuroimaging studies have associated brain development with pubertal stage, and yet there is tentative evidence to suggest that puberty might play an important role in some aspects of brain and cognitive development. In this paper we describe this research, and we suggest that, in the future, developmental neuroimaging studies of adolescence should consider the role of puberty.
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