Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Adolescent Brain by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore
(Transworld (UK), Public Affairs (US), 2018)

Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Adolescent Brain

by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

Featured on BBC Radio’s 4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage

The brain creates every feeling, emotion and desire we experience, and stores every one of our memories. And yet, until very recently, scientists believed our brains were fully developed in childhood. Now, thanks to imaging technology that enables us to look inside the living human brain at all ages, we know that this isn’t so – that the brain goes on developing and changing right through adolescence into adulthood.

So what makes the adolescent brain different? What drives the excessive risk-taking or the need for intense friendships common to this age group? Why does an easy child become a challenging teenager? And why is it that many mental illnesses – depression, addiction, schizophrenia – begin during these formative years.

Drawing upon her cutting-edge research in her London laboratory, award-winning neuroscientist, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore explains what happens inside the adolescent brain, and what her team’s experiments have revealed about our behaviour, and how we relate to each other and our environment as we go through this period of our lives. She shows that while adolescence is a period of vulnerability, it is also a time of enormous creativity – one that should be acknowledged, nurtured and celebrated.

Our adolescence provides a lens through which we can see ourselves anew. It is fundamental to how we invent ourselves.


Finally, a book about the adolescent brain written by someone who actually does the science! In this highly readable, ground-breaking book Blakemore takes us not only into the minds of teenagers, but into the minds of the people who study them. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in how adolescents think, and for everyone concerned about how to apply this knowledge to policy and practice.”
- Laurence Steinberg, Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, Temple University, and author of Age of Opportunity: Lessons From the New Science of Adolescence
A very readable book bringing together the up-to-date research about how the adolescent brain develops. This matters to both adolescents and parents but also should be read by everyone who looks after adolescents, be they teachers, doctors or psychologists.”
- Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health
Inventing Ourselves is a gripping celebration of the teenage brain. Essential reading for parents, teachers and teens. Sane, wise, myth busting, this book is a triumph and should be read by every parent and teacher but they should be warned. They’ll have to fight their teenagers to get this gripping book out of their hands.”
- Dr Vivienne Parry OBE
The teenage brain is different, but in what way? This beautifully written book tells just how it influences and is influenced by the new challenging demands of a transformational phase of life. There is no sensationalism here. Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is a pioneer in the field and provides a meticulous account of what we know.”
- Professors Uta & Chris Frith
Blakemore's mission is to convince us to celebrate the adolescent brain, not problematise it. The communication of the cutting-edge evidence behind her argument represents a unique combination of scientific rigor and excitement, in a superbly engaging account of the development and malleability of the human brain. This is essential reading for educationalists – and indeed for all those interested in how young people's brains develop, and the complex interplay between the environment and the human body.”
- Professor Becky Francis, Director, UCL Institute of Education
In an engaging work of scientific analysis combined with personal anecdote, Professor Blakemore has made an extremely important contribution to the way in which society (and criminal justice in particular) should approach adolescent crime, in particular, gang or group related. The book is thought provoking and should be essential reading for all those considering this difficult issue.”
- The Rt Hon, Sir Brian Leveson, President of the Queen's Bench Division
This is a fascinating book, which captures the complexity of adolescence but at the same time provides a clear, accessible account of our current understanding of the ‘teenage brain’. The underlying argument that adolescence is a period of development that should be celebrated is well made and challenges us all to rethink the way in which we relate to the adolescents with whom we come into contact at work, home or elsewhere. Given the complex changes that are going on in the ‘teenage brain’ it is no wonder we see such a variety of behaviours. As the author reminds us, the vast majority of adolescents do not go to extremes but become adults who support their families and, in their own way, contribute to society. In this book Sarah-Jayne Blakemore has, without doubt, made neuroscience of the ‘teenage brain’ accessible to a wide audience. More importantly, through her personalisation of the material, she has presented it in a way that is engaging and relevant. There is much still to learn about how the brain works but for now this book is not only an excellent introduction for someone new to this field but it also challenges us all to think again about the importance of the ‘teenage years’ and how we might work with (rather than against) the adolescents with whom we come into contact every day.”
- Professor Derek Bell, Director of Learnus
There are few scientists that can write about complex issues with such lucidity and force. Blakemore takes on the topic of adolescence and succeeds and sets a new bar for a no nonsense discussion about the crucial importance of brain development. Clearly, teenagers are assembling their minds right in front of our very eyes and Blakemore shows us how to understand the wonder and joy of it all.”
- Michael S. Gazzaniga, SAGE Center, University of California
A brilliant scientist reveals herself to be a writer of considerable talent. With precision, honesty and humour, Sarah Jayne-Blakemore shows how the brooding monsters in your living room are not children gone wrong: they are delicate machines in transition.”
- Charles Fernyhough, Professor Charles Fernyhough, Professor of Psychology, Durham University, author of The Voices Within
An irresistible insight into the teenage years. This book is utterly brilliant, Rarely have I read a book on education with such enjoyment.”
- Dame Alison Peacock, DBE, DLitt, Chief Executive, Chartered College of Teaching