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The Problem With the Teenage Brain

According to a report on NPR, the frontal lobe of a teenage brain is simply not yet fully connected. This is the part of the brain that determines whether or not an action is wise or unwise, and also contends with the foreseen consequence of the action (e.g., lighting a tire on fire in your driveway will create logistical problems in the immediate future). Unlike most normal adult brains, the nerve cells of teenager’s brains are sluggish and provide an inefficient form of communication between one part of the brain and another. This is also seemingly why many teenagers appear to be so self involved and narcissistic, unable to consider neither the needs of others nor the effects of their actions on others.

The report also outlines how the brains of children and adolescents are easily excitable. Their brain chemistry is tuned to be responsive to everything in their environment, which facilitates easy learning as well as a potential expressway toward substance abuse and addiction. For example, studies show that a teenager who smokes pot or engages in casual drug use will still show cognitive deficits days later, where as an adult who does an equal amount of drugs will return to cognitive baseline much faster. In addition, a recent study conducted at University of California, San Diego compared the brain scans of teens who drink heavily with the scans of teens who don’t, and they found damaged nerve tissue in the brains of the teens who drank, some of it being irreversible and greatly impacting attention span and comprehension.

The gravity of the addiction/abuse component aside, these findings bring to light what exactly it is that keeps some teenagers from doing the right thing, and often times engaging in behavior that is confounding to adults. Hopefully this information will provide more understanding (and maybe compassion) in cases where parents and teenagers butt heads. However, I am sure some people might view these findings as justification to rein teenagers in and strictly prohibit their freedoms, on account of their immature neurochemistry.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Have you witnessed behavior that backs up these claims or possibly dispels them? Does a report like this unfairly brand teenagers as intellectually unstable? I would love to hear from parents and teenagers alike.

Read more: Children, Family, Health, Mental Wellness, Parenting at the Crossroads, Teens, , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

124 comments

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5:49AM PDT on Jul 22, 2013

We all know teens do many things to fit in. I can't say I was ever brought up in a way to even consider anything mentioned above. I was not perfect. There were things I did but not anything close to what is mentioned here.

Thank You for the interesting Information.

11:35AM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

This is actually really cool :) Thanks for sharing.

9:49PM PDT on Mar 27, 2012

The differences now are what we feed teenagers, how we instill discipline in teenagers, how we supervise teenagers, and how we do or don't socialize teenagers from the mammals that they are born into the people we need them to become.

I completely agree with JennyLynn.W

3:41PM PDT on Mar 27, 2012

I've seen teens do the most amazingly stupid things, I'm not surprised at all.

8:19PM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

Thanks for the info

8:30AM PDT on Jul 4, 2010

interesting

1:43PM PDT on Jul 3, 2010

It would seem that the basic problem with teenage behavior is the parents brains, or lack thereof.

5:20PM PDT on Mar 29, 2010

I guess it´s a matter of looking at different points of view taking sometime to listen to the person in front and not wanting to express power over that particular person.
Power with common sense is different from power without an ego well located.

5:20PM PDT on Mar 29, 2010

I guess it´s a matter of looking at different points of view taking sometime to listen to the person in front and not wanting to express power over that particular person.
Power with common sense is different from power without an ego well located.

1:03PM PDT on Mar 29, 2010

I'm a teenager and I've never done anything nearly as dumb as the things in this article. Actually, I really can't think of any teenagers I know who have... I think it's a few teens who give the rest of us the reputation of being crazy.

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