Cracking the Case of the Teenage Brain

The teenage years are such a critical time of learning, and retaining information correctly, because your brain is developing rapidly. Frances E. Jensen and Amy Ellis Nutt have written a book about the neurosciences of the teenage brain, breaking down its development process in order to better understand the changes and interworking of the teenage brain.

During one’s adolescent years, the brain is in its prime for learning because it possesses the ability to form memories that last longer. This means that hands-on experiences, photos, acting out skits, and videos may be more suitable to learning during this time period because of the impact these interactive learning strategies can have on the teenager's memory. However, teenagers are so open to learning everything in their environment that when placed in the wrong one, they can be taught things and remember things that are not helpful or suitable.

When the brain receives signals of happiness or reward, it is receiving a drug called dopamine. During the adolescent years, your body is more likely to send dopamine to your brain in a heightened fashion because it is taking in a lot of memories that appear to be positive. This heightened level of dopamine, however, is what causes a lot of teenagers to fall down a path of addiction, because their body is reacting strongly to their substance of choice. Their brains are also not fully developed, especially in the frontal lobes where decision-making and judgment is made; this is why many adolescents that do make a wrong choice often don’t know how to get themselves out of it. These are just some examples of how negative environments have also been known to effect teens, though there are plenty of positive learning environments that can do good for a teen during these years. 

This is simply a gentle warning and reminder from Jensen and Nutt to take into consideration the kind of environment that you choose to put your children under; they may be retaining harmful, rather than helpful, information or habits. Make sure to continually remind teens to be cautious of certain situations, and how to handle a situation once they are in it. It doesn’t matter how many times they have heard it before; they need the reinforcement! Both of the authors also proved a point to their children that it is hard for them to multitask at their age.

If we take these brain facts seriously, they can be incredibly helpful and advance the learning of teens for "street smart" and "book smart" environments with their sponge-like brain.


Based on the New York Times article, "The Teenage Brain."


--Jessalyn Kieta

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