10 Facts about a Teen’s Brain
They often experiment with their looks; they shout seemingly for no reason and they don’t want to be told what to do! Does this sound familiar? Teenagers often give a hard time to their parents. However, before you jump the gun and go all ballistic, let us tell you these feelings are abound in the minds of all parents with a teenage daughter or son.
Whether you are a concerned parent looking for a crash course to help you survive this stressful phase or a teenager looking to make acquaintance with the fine intricacies of the functioning of your brain, this is a must read.
- If you believe that the brain fully develops in the childhood, we hate to break it to you that you are wrong! “The Teen Years Explained” by Clea McNeely and Jayne Blanchard indicates, contrary to earlier beliefs, human brain undergoes profound growth in teen years. Teenage marks the biggest leap in the growth of prefrontal cortex.
- Ever wondered why teens take forever to make decisions and why they are so emotional? The fact that their frontal lobe is still in the growth phase, teenagers rely heavily on the back of their brain which slows down their decision making abilities. A fully grown prefrontal cortex helps adults make rational decisions by enabling us weigh our decisions on the basis of risk and reward. However, emotion plays a vital role in the teens’ decision making because their brain has to rely heavily on the limbic system, an emotional seat, as opposed to the prefrontal cortex.
- Want to know why teens often go for riskier but highly rewarding tasks. A fully developed Accumbens nucleus is an integral component of the brain reward pathway, formed when it connects to the ventral tegmental area. When scientists observed the activities in accumbens nucleus, they found that teen brain responds dramatically to bigger rewards but not so much to smaller ones.
- The ideas and habits that a teen brain picks up stays with the person for their life time. Due to an active phase of neural plasticity, a teenage brain acts like a sponge to soak up all that the world brings on to it. This phase can be a boon by helping a teenager learn new skills that can help him in his lifetime or, on the other hand, at this age he may end up picking up alcohol or substance abuse.
- Ever wondered why teens often do bizarre things to please their peers? For a teen brain, peer pleasure and peer approval go hand in hand. They want to be seen through the eyes of others, thanks to the development of the abstract reasoning concept in their brains at this stage. However, in this process of peer pleasure, they also end up learning new life skills that are commonplace in an adult setting.
- The teen brain constantly looks for a stimulus. This is the reason why you would find them glued to Facebook and Instagram. Adults have the ability to put aside the unimportant time-sinks and focus on more important things. However, unless the task is providing higher mental stimulus, the teens will forego that and rather stick to gulping down, say, the social media buzz.
- Teenagers often go to bed late and get up late too. There is a biological basis to this shift. In mammals, the circadian clock shifts the sleep cycles by a few hours at the adolescent age. This is the reason why the teenagers would be often look sleep deprived as they are forced to get up early in the morning by their parents.
- Although it is widely believed that the adolescents look for autonomy in their lives. However, according to the author of “Inside the Teenage Brain”, Sheryl Feinstein, teenagers look upto their parents and want to spend their time with them. Hence, the parents should take time out for their teenagers so that they can better understand each other and overcome the challenges of the teenage.
- Teenagers often multitask. They are listening to music, checking their Facebook feed and trying to complete the homework, all at the same time, while getting the unstopping dose of WhatsApp memes. This slows them down! When our brain tries to juggle up between too many tasks, it goes through frequent brownout phases; the connections built while working on one task need to be rebuilt when something has distracted us.
- Various emotional disorders such as depression etc. are common in teenage. A few of the disorders may not be manifested at this age as the frontal lobe is still under-construction. Their peers may not have the necessary skills to provide the right support when it’s needed. Hence, an open communication between the teenager and the adult, and due attention is a must.
As the University of Pennsylvania neurologist, Frances E Jensen has aptly put, “We expect a little bit more out of adolescents than we should, given where their brains are”. We must ensure that we go easy on the teens. A little more understanding and patience will go a long way in helping the teenager move ahead in life with ease.