Thursday, 13 October 2011 00:00

The Teenage Brain

Written by  Dr. Deborah G Mishek
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Don't give up on your teenagers! Their brains are still changing and remodeling into their 20's. This means that the axons become myelinated and the pathways that are being used become reinforced and the ones that are not fade away.

 The brain operates on a "use it or lose it" philosophy. The brain matures back to front and it is the front part of the brain that is involved in executive function and impulse control. There is hope - it does get better! There appears to be some evolutionary adaptive function to those behaviors that parents dread such as risk taking, thrill seeking and socializing. Adolescents are willing to take a greater risk to get a greater reward, which sometimes gives them an adaptive edge. One author suggests that teens want to be with their peers more than with their families "to invest in the future rather than the past." The fastest way to get teenagers to lose interest in a career or activity is to tell them what they should like or what you would like them to do. It is normal for teens to push away from their parents to develop their own identity. That does not mean that parents should give up on their teenagers and let them have free rein - parents can gently guide their teenagers while allowing independence and letting them learn from their mistakes in a safe environment. Since the brain continues to remodel throughout adolescence, there is some flexibility in what the final outcome will be - those experiences and risks taken help the brain adapt and perhaps function at a higher level. Here is a great quote from William Shakespeare from The Winter's Tale - a character wishes "there were no age between ten and three-an-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting."


For a great review on the Teenage Brain look at this National Geographic article - http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/10/teenage-brains/dobbs-text


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