HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Frances Jensen

Neurologist and Neuroscientist, Expert on Brain Development


  • Normal Teen Brain
  • Brain Development from Infancy to Adulthood
  • Adolescent Brain and Substance Abuse
  • Adolescent Brain and Learning
  • Epilepsy


More Media
  • Video: Frances Jensen at TEDMED 2010.

  • Audio: Frances Jensen on NPR's Fresh Air.

Dr. Frances Jensen is an internationally known expert in neurology and the teenage brain.  She is the Professor of Neurology and Chair of Neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.  As a mother, teacher, researcher, clinician and frequent lecturer to parents and teens, she is in a unique position to explain to readers the mystery and magic of the teen brain.

In The Teenage Brain (Harper), Jensen will bring to readers the new, sometimes astonishing findings that remain buried in academic journals. Along the way she explores a few myths about adolescent behavior and offer pointers and practical suggestions on how to negotiate this difficult and dynamic life stage for parents, teachers and even teens themselves.  The Teenage Brain is one of the first books to focus exclusively on the mind development of adolescents and will dispel the many widespread misunderstandings about teenage brains.

The book presents hard data intermingled with accessible and relatable anecdotes drawn from Jensen’s experiences as a parent, clinician and public speaker. Finally, The Teenage Brain will offer practical suggestions for how parents, teens, schools, even the legal system can better deal with adolescents on their journey into adulthood.

She was formerly Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School and Director of Translational Neuroscience and Director of Epilepsy Research at Boston Children's Hospital and senior neurologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  She is a graduate of Cornell Medical College and did her neurology residency training at the Harvard Longwood Neurology Residency Program.  Her research focuses on mechanisms of epilepsy and stroke, with specific emphasis on injury in the developing brain as well as age specific therapies for clinical trials development.

Jensen received a 2007 Director’s Pioneer Award from the NIH to explore the interaction between epileptogenesis and cognitive dysfunction.  Jensen also is the recipient of the 2008 American Epilepsy Society Basic Science Research Award.   Jensen was President of the American Epilepsy Society in 2012 and has served on a number of other leadership boards including the Council for the Society for Neuroscience, the nominating committee at the American Neurological Association, and is on Council at NICHD.  In addition, she serves on the scientific advisory panel at NIH for the BRAIN Initiative and on a number of charitable foundations for medical research.

Jensen has authored over 130 manuscripts on subjects related to her research, has been continuously funded by NIH since 1987, and has trained numerous clinical and basic research fellows who now hold independent faculty positions nationally and internationally.  She is also the sponsor of an FDA-approved IND for an ongoing multi-center clinical trial of a novel therapy for neonatal seizures, generated from basic research in her laboratory.  She is an advocate for the awareness of the adolescent brain development, its unique strengths and vulnerabilities, as well as their impact on medical, social, and educational issues unique to teenagers and young adults.   She is also Trustee of the Franklin Institute.

With her esteemed background and firsthand experience as a mother, Jensen offers invaluable insight into what is really going on in a teenager’s brain. This hard data and years of research lend to her capabilities as an incredibly knowledgeable and meaningful speaker who can tailor her topics to a variety of audiences. Dr. Jensen has spoken widely on topics related to her research in neuroscience and epilepsy, as well as on brain development.  Media events at which she has spoken include TEDMED, Boston Science Museum, Franklins Institute, and she has been interviewed by CBS’ “60 minutes”, NBC “today Show”,  CSPA Q&A, and NPR’s “All Things Considered” and most recently Terry Gross’ “Fresh Air”.

Jensen currently resides in Philadelphia with her family.

Praise for Frances Jensen:

“Dr. Jensen had a significant impact on our students and their parents. Her comprehensive, deep understanding of the scientific literature about the teenage brain is matched by her enthusiasm for the subject and her ability to make this information relevant, understandable, and interesting for others. Students left the talk interested in neurology and genuinely able to reflect on their risk-taking behaviors and decision-making.”
--Scott Miller, Director of Counseling, Asheville School

Praise for The Teenage Brain:

“My favorite quote from this marvelous book: ‘The truth of the matter is… adolescents are not an alien species, just a misunderstood one.’ Dr. Jensen uses her considerable expertise as a neuroscientist and a mother to explain the recent explosion of adolescent brain research and how this research can help us better understand and help young people. This book also highlights biologically inherent opportunities to enhance the health and well-being of young people during the second decade of life… opportunities we should not be missing.”
— Carol A. Ford, M.D. President, Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine; Professor of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania; and Chief, Division of Adolescent Medicine at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

“In The Teenage Brain, neurologist Frances Jensen has brilliantly translated academic science and clinical studies into easily understandable chapters to highlight the many changes in connections and plasticity of the brain. The book is a ‘must read’ for parents, teachers, school nurses, and many others who live with or interact with teens. Understanding the susceptibility of the brain to drugs and stressors is not presented as an excuse but rather as a new framework for readers to approach parenting or teaching with more science and more evidence-based, practical advice.”
— S. Jean Emans, MD. Chief, Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital; Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School

“This well-written, accessible work surveys recent research into the adolescent brain, a subject relatively unexplored until just this past decade.…Chapter by chapter, Jensen covers essential topics: how teens learn; why they need more sleep; coping with stress; mental illness; the “digital invasion of the teenage brain”; and the biological differences between girls’ and boys’ brains. Speaking as one parent to another, she offers support and a way for parents to understand and relate to their own soon-to-be-adult offspring.”
— Publishers Weekly

“A captivating chapter, ‘The Digital Invasion of the Teenage Brain,’ calls attention to computer craving and adolescent addiction to the Internet.… [A] sensible, scientific, and stimulating book.”
— Booklist

“They can’t help it-teens are in many ways unable to control impulses, make wise decisions, and understand what they do, explains Jensen (neurology; chair, neurology dept., Univ. of Pennsylvania). It’s not willful; it’s brain chemistry. By understanding relevant brain science, however, parents can find plans of action to help their kids through all the nuances of life in this fraught period. Jensen, with science writer Nutt, explains how teen brains are still developing and changing; nonscientific readers will find a lot of information here about neurology. Yet Jensen is also a parent and imparts deep concerns about the pressures of raising her two sons. “Today’s parents should not only “tolerate” their kids’ behavior—they can use their teens’ emotional outbursts and errors of judgment to help them learn, choose, and “wise up,” she explains. Jensen supports later morning starts for school days (teens need morning sleep) and describes exactly what tobacco, alcohol, pot, and hard drugs do to the brain. While parents should understand and use social media, they must set limits for computer and smartphone use. VERDICT Recommended for readers who enjoyed Laurence Steinberg’s Age of Opportunity, this title applies new science to the frustrating dilemma of how to live with teenage kids.”
— Library Journal (starred review)

“A valuable resource for parents, youth workers, educators, and anyone involved with teens in any way. The book is engaging, understandable, and extremely informative.”
— New York Journal of Books