Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain, by Sarah-Jayne Blakemo

Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain, by Sarah-Jayne Blakemo

What’s this book about?

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore explores the complexities of adolescence in her book, Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain. Instead of blaming teenagers for their behavior, she aims to help readers understand and explain the teenage experience without unfairly criticising them.

Why read this book?

Blakemore is a cognitive neuroscience professor at University College London with a notable career. She’s an award-winning scientist and was acknowledged in the Sunday Times 100 Makers of the 21st Century in 2014. She uses her expertise in researching adolescents to explain complex, useful ideas to the general public.

Who is this book for?

This book dives deep into the world of neuroscience, using brain imaging, psychological models and extensive research to explore the adolescent brain. While it might be a bit challenging for someone without a background in these topics, this book is a goldmine for teachers looking to delve into the latest research on how teenagers’ brains work.

Evidence base

This book mainly relies on evidence from neuroscience to uncover the mysteries of teenagers’ brains. It delves into topics like brain plasticity and the structural changes that occur in the brain over a person’s lifetime. The level of detail here is quite unique, going beyond what you’d typically find in general psychology texts. The descriptions of research on specific brain functions and development are not only informative but also a pleasure to read, offering a comprehensive understanding of the fascinating world of adolescent brain science.


Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain may be 240 pages long, but Sarah-Jayne Blakemore makes it easy to navigate by dividing it into 12 themed chapters that extensively cover the teenage brain:

  1. Adolescence isn’t an aberration
  2. A sense of self
  3. Fitting in
  4. Inside the skull
  5. Inside the living brain
  6. The ever-plastic brain
  7. Social mind, social brain
  8. Understanding other people
  9. The right sort of risks
  10. When things go wrong
  11. Educating the brain
  12. It’s the journey that matters

Blakemore covers many interesting topics in her book, like how we understand social interactions, autism, recognising faces and how our brains develop these abilities. She uses brain scans to see how people learn to understand each other, including reading facial expressions. The book also talks about how sleep (or lack of it) affects teens’ brains and suggests changes we could make in schools based on what we know about how the brain works. Blakemore explores why teens take risks by looking at how different parts of their brains develop. She also discusses how teens interpret marketing messages differently and how experiences in their lives can impact their brains, possibly causing challenges later on. This book goes the extra mile by incorporating helpful graphs that visually represent the key findings discussed. These graphs make it easy to picture and grasp the important points from the research. So, even if you’re not an expert in the field, the visual aids in the book provide a user-friendly way to understand and appreciate the insights about the teenage brain.


Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is an invaluable resource for educators who are eager to understand the inner workings of the adolescent brain. This book, steeped in neuroscience and psychology, provides insights that offers teachers a scientific basis to understand their students better, potentially enhancing the effectiveness of their teaching strategies and classroom interactions.

For example, an understanding of the structural changes and plasticity of the teenage brain could allow teachers to tailor their teaching methods to the unique cognitive abilities and needs of adolescents. The book’s exploration of social interactions, autism, face recognition abilities, and the impact of sleep deprivation on teenagers’ brains could also enable teachers to better comprehend the behavioural aspects of their students. This could lead to more effective classroom management and student engagement strategies. The book’s in-depth exploration of the adolescent brain, coupled with its clear and comprehensive presentation, makes it a remarkable tool for educators committed to adapting their teaching methods to the evolving needs of their students. Its user-friendly presentation of complex scientific findings, through graphs and thematic chapters, makes it accessible to educators. Teachers can easily navigate through the book and visually grasp its key findings, thereby making the application of this knowledge to their teaching methods more feasible.

Value for money

This book is great value for money at only £7.99 for over 200 pages jam-packed full of in-depth, cutting-edge research to aid teachers in better understanding the adolescent brain and the momentous changes it undergoes in such a remarkably short time.

Why we love this book

  • Expert author – Authored by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a renowned cognitive neuroscience professor, the book provides credible and expert insights into the teenage brain.
  • Comprehensive coverage – The book extensively covers various aspects of adolescent brain development, from social interactions and risk-taking to the influence of marketing and sleep.
  • Evidence-informed – It is rooted in scientific evidence, offering an in-depth look into the structural changes and plasticity of the teenage brain through neuroscience research.
  • User-friendly – Despite its scientific depth, the book is accessible to a general audience, thanks to its clear writing, thematic chapters and helpful graphs that visually represent key findings.
  • Educational resource – The book serves as a valuable resource for educators, providing them with a scientific understanding of their students’ cognitive abilities and needs

Final thoughts

Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is a captivating exploration of the teenage brain. It refrains from unfairly criticising teenagers and instead provides scientific explanations for their behaviour. Blakemore simplifies complex concepts to make them accessible to a general audience. This book offers a detailed look into the structural changes and plasticity of the teenage brain. With 12 themed chapters, it covers a wide array of topics related to the teenage brain, from social interactions to risk-taking. The visuals, including detailed graphs and illustrations, enhance understanding of key findings. In conclusion, Inventing Ourselves is an insightful, evidence-based exploration of the complexities of adolescence and the science behind it.

Our Review Summary

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Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is an enlightening exploration of adolescence. Instead of blaming teenagers for their behaviour, Blakemore provides readers with a scientific understanding of the teenage experience.

Using brain imaging, psychological models and extensive research to uncover the intricacies of the adolescent brain, Inventing Ourselves goes beyond typical psychology books, providing a comprehensive understanding of adolescent brain science, from social interactions and brain development to risk-taking and the impact of sleep on the teenage brain.

The inclusion of helpful graphs visually representing key findings makes the book user-friendly and easy to understand, even for non-experts. This book offers great value for money, packed with in-depth, cutting-edge research that can help educators better comprehend the adolescent brain and its rapid changes