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  • March 2010
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This is your brain!

If you are a teenager, your brain is still growing.

I feel pretty confident in saying that we have probably all done things without knowing why we were doing them, or really thinking about the outcome.  These moments probably occur more often during the teen years.  As a scientist in a recent article on NPR says:

“[we] used to think human brain development was pretty complete by age 10. Or as she puts it, that ‘a teenage brain is just an adult brain with fewer miles on it.’

But it’s not. To begin with, she says, a crucial part of the brain — the frontal lobes — are not fully connected. Really.

‘It’s the part of the brain that says: “Is this a good idea? What is the consequence of this action?” ‘ Jensen says. ‘It’s not that they don’t have a frontal lobe. And they can use it. But they’re going to access it more slowly.’ “

Not that this is an excuse– even people with connected frontal lobes tend to act before they think some of the time.  But it helps to explain why it feels so crazy sometimes just being a teen.

photo from flickr user perpetualplum

Another interesting thing I’ve read recently about teenage brains is the way that they learn things.

According to David Walsh (an award-winning psychologist and author of Why Do They Act that Way, and No!)

“When adolescents engage in any activity, certain neurons in the brain receive electrical impulses.  The more often those neurons are activated, the more likely they will fuse together to form an established neural pathway, and therefore the more likely the brain will remember how to engage in that activity.

When a high school student is trying to memorize French vocabulary for a  quiz, she would be well advised to repeat the words, write them down, and say them out loud.  Eventually she won’t have to think twice to remember the words because the repetition helps wire the French terms into her brain.

This phenomenon is true for matters far more complex than memorizing new vocabulary.  Learning to set personal limits, think long term, and appreciate delayed gratification during adolescence will set the precedent for adult patterns and abilities.

(from No!, page 165)

In other words:

Practice Makes Perfect… BIOLOGICALLY!

And it makes more sense to learn stuff when your brain is growing, because it literally gets wired into the brain, and is easier to do when you get older.

Learning a language?  Way harder when you get older?  Breaking a bad habit or forming a good one? The same.  There’s a brainy reason for the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”

You’re actually saving yourself a lot of trouble later by going through the trouble of learning now.  (And as teen librarians, we know to cut you a break sometimes–after all, your brain is still growing.)

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