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About the book
  • Published: 16 April 2018
  • ISBN: 9780857523716
  • Imprint: Doubleday
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • RRP: $29.99

Inventing Ourselves

The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain




Award-winning neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore has revolutionised the way we think about the brain. In her exciting book debut, she explains the adolescent brain, its transformations, and how it ultimately shapes the adults we become.

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.

  • Pub date: 16 April 2018
  • ISBN: 9780857523716
  • Imprint: Doubleday
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • RRP: $29.99

About the Author

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. She has published over 120 papers in scientific journals, and won multiple major awards for her research, including the British Psychological Society Spearman Medal 2006, the Turin Young Mind & Brain Prize 2013, the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award 2013 and the Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2015. She was named in The Times Young Female Power List 2014 and was one of only four scientists on the Sunday Times 100 Makers of the 21st Century 2014.
Professor Blakemore has two sons and lives in Hertfordshire. Inventing Ourselves is her first solo book and is the winner of the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2018.

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Praise for Inventing 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

“Beautifully written with clarity, expertise and honesty about the most important subject for all of us. I couldn’t put it down.”

Robert Winston

“An engaging and interesting book, written comprehensibly for a non-specialist audience. You will understand your children and your former selves better for reading it and you will bust a few myths as you go.”

The Times

“Absolutely fascinating”

Louise Minchin, BBC Breakfast

“The best science writing helps us to look at ourselves and our world in new ways, and does this by combining compelling storytelling with scientific depth and detail. This book not only has all of these qualities, but also has something to offer every reader - whether you are a teenager, parent of a teenager, or just interested in understanding your former teenage self.”

Professor Brian Cox

“I currently live with not one but two adolescent brains and, thanks to the thoughtful, lucid and illuminating scientific insights of Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, now at least I understand why they are so infuriating - and am even encouraged to try to do more to support my kids during this crucial, dramatic and maddening period of brain growth.”

Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs at the Science Museum, and author of Supercooperators: The Mathematics of Evolution, Altruism and Human Behaviour

“There are few people more qualified to explain [adolescence] than the author of this compelling book. What I enjoyed most about this book was the readability and personal style of the narrative. Blakemore manages to present a highly accessible account of the science, without ever compromising on detail or depth…there is almost a sense that the reader is in the lab, listening in on the discussions and taking part in the decisions….This book has something to offer everyone … Blakemore provides a unique and very up-to-date insight into the changes that occur during this intriguing period.”

Dr Catherine Loveday, The Psychologist

“Completely captivating ... Blakemore explains the science behind teenage behaviour in a lucid and engaging way, deconstructs the myths that surround it, offers new insight into how we should treat teenagers, and reflects on how our new knowledge might usefully influence policy decisions. …This is truly a book that everyone should read.”

Professor Dame Frances Ashcroft, chair of Royal Society Prize judges and professor of physiology at Oxford

“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.”

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

“Inventing Ourselves is an accessible introduction both to neuroscience and experimental psychology, covering basic research techniques while providing an overview of recent studies of adolescence that will be of interest even to someone familiar with these fields. This balance is in large part due to the author’s ability to explain nuanced experiments with an infectious enthusiasm that engages the reader’s curiosity. Blakemore approaches the topic with a sympathy and respect for the adolescents she works with that is genuinely admirable. For anyone looking back on their teenage years, trying to raise a teenager, or working with adolescents, this book can help foster understanding about why adolescents act the way they do and how we become our adult selves. ”

Robert Stirrups, The Lancet

“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

“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

“A brainy guide to the science behind teenagers' behaviour ... Inventing Ourselves is a timely book. Blakemore points out that we sometimes put too much trust in scientific studies, which, after all, produce findings not facts, and suggests that whatever we read about neuroscience “should be swallowed with a substantial swig of scepticism”. Sarah-Jayne Blakemore nails some neuro-myths and calls out the snake-oil salesmen, but warns against throwing the neuroscience baby out with the “brain baloney” bathwater.”

Kevin Stannard, the director of innovation and learning at the Girls’ Day School Trust, TES

“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

“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

“An engrossing account of the adolescent brain, how it transforms, and how it ultimately shapes the adults we become.”

Caroline Sanderson, Bookseller

“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, 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.”

Professor Dame Alison Peacock, DBE, DLitt, Chief Executive, Chartered College of Teaching

“We have learned a great deal about adolescent brain development in recent years, and this book is an up-to-date, authoritative, and accessible account of research that helps us understand, among other things, why teenagers sometimes take big risks, and why they are vulnerable to mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia.”

Mo Costandi, neurobiologist, science writer, author of Neurophilosophy blog for the Guardian

“[In adolescence] our behaviours, desires and moods, all of which feed into our happiness, become very different... This is a thorough, informative read across the whole subject.”

Dean Burnett, Guardian

“A fine synthesis of psychology with the latest brain research. Books of the Year.”

FT


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