The following is excerpted from an online article posted by HealthDay.
An adolescent starts thinking like an adult right around the age of 18, according to new research.
That provides some of the first definitive evidence that executive function matures by that time.
Executive function is a set of mental skills that include the ability to plan, switch between tasks, resist tempting distractions, and focus.
For the study, researchers collected and analyzed nearly two dozen laboratory measures of executive functions in more than 10,000 people.
“When I talk with parents, a lot of them say, ‘There is no way that my 18-year-old is a fully formed adult!'” said senior author Beatriz Luna, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and authority on neurocognitive development.
“Other important behavioral factors that complement executive function, such as the ability to control one’s own emotions, can change with age. The ability to use executive function reliably improves with age and, at least in a laboratory setting, matures by 18 years of age,” Luna said in a university news release.
While many childhood milestones are mapped out, that timeline of adolescence transitioning to adulthood is less formally defined, according to the study. Individuals differ greatly. Analytical tools are limited.
Using four unique datasets, the authors collected 23 distinct measures of executive function from 10,000 participants aged 8 to 35. They tracked changes over time and whether performance across different tests fit a single trajectory.
Researchers saw a rapid burst of executive function development from age 10 to 15. That was followed by small but significant changes through mid-adolescence, ages 15 to 18. Development reached adult-level performance by ages 18 to 20.
Study findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.