At what age do you become responsible for your actions?

Prof. Leah Somerville

The law has to decide at what age someone should be held accountable for their actions. What does neuroscience tell us about when that should be?

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Is age a good marker of how mature your brain is?

Legally speaking, there has to be an age of responsibility - a clear point at which a child becomes an adult and is therefore responsible for their actions. But, instinctively, we know that this is an artificial distinction, and neuroscience agrees: different parts of the brain mature at different rates, and as with puberty some people develop faster than others.

How do scientists think about the concept of maturity when it comes to the brain? And how do they translate the complexity of their research to navigate questions of responsibility and consent? Prof. Leah Somerville runs the Affective Neuroscience & Development Laboratory at Harvard University, and she'll be joining us in The Garden to wrestle with these important and fascinating questions.

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50 minutes


Growing Up & Growing Old

About the Fellow

Prof. Leah Somerville

Leah Somerville is Director of the Affective Neuroscience & Development Laboratory at Harvard University. Her work explores how brain development through adolescence shapes changes in behaviour.

Growing Up & Growing Old Collection

"It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it," said Mark Twain. But do we, really? Our crack team of Garden Fellows are thinking differently about growing up and growing old, and they're here to help you do the same.