News & Features

Back-to-School Special: The Teen Brain

Watch a video featuring Lisa Kudrow '85 and Associate Professor Abby Baird '91.
Watch a video featuring Lisa Kudrow '85 and Associate Professor Abby Baird '91.

Actress and producer Lisa Kudrow ’85 and Associate Professor Abby Baird ’91, a developmental psychologist, recently met in Vassar’s famed Alumnae House Pub to discuss the often frustratingly opaque workings of the teenage brain. This conversation marks the first in a series of From the Pub offerings, brought to you by the Office of Alumnae/i Affairs and Development (OAAD).

Baird, who earned a B.A. in biopsychology from Vassar and an M.A. and Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Harvard University, has specialized in the study of neural development during adolescence.  

“The purpose of puberty is to transform the brain (and the person) from childhood to adulthood,” she says. “The basic point is to improve the coordination between various parts of the brain, including very primitive parts, that have not been working together in the way they’ll come to work together in adulthood.” But that learning and coordination takes a lot of trial and error, and the behavior that ensues in the interim is often misunderstood.

In this video, Baird sheds light on the ways in which teenagers use emotions and cognition to make decisions—or not—in an engaging and informative discussion with Kudrow, a Vassar biology major with a surprising past as a headache researcher.

Look for future From the Pub presentations on the Hub—where brains meet curiosity.

Posted Tuesday, September 4, 2012