the Teenage Brain
BY DAVE PETERSON © copyright 1997-2000 by Parents' Press
news! During the past year or so, science has shared some welcome
information your brain is growing!
recently as 1996, a Newsweek article reported that most brain
growth occurred during our first two years of life, and was pretty
much over by age 4.
in January, 2000, the New York Times reported research from the
University of California, Irvine and the University of Southern
California showing that major neuron growth continued through
age 5 or 6.
next month, Newsweek's Sharon Begley reported exciting findings
by Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health: MRI studies
of teenage brains showed a dramatic second growth spurt in brain
development, caused by those same hormones that gave puberty a
bad name! Starting around age 10 to 12, your mental powers get
a second chance to expand throughout the teen years. What does
all this mean to you?
The quality of your experiences actually develops your brain;
your environment will determine your abilities.
But it's not simply an expansion of capacity; information and
experience you judge as not important is "strained out"
and only data meaningful to you is kept.
Associations are crucial; new experiences, in order to be used,
must be connected to previous ones. You must think about what
comes your way.
Early experiences impact on later abilities; intelligence is not
"fixed" by age 2.
At puberty, your physical and emotional development create "windows"
or prime times for learning. Typically, these are the middle school
and high school years.
All along, your emotions strongly impact on learning skills. Motivation
and positive feelings help you learn; stress and negative feelings
will hinder your learning.
You have many "intelligences," far more than simply
an IQ. Examples:
Linguistic or verbal, used by speakers, writers, readers,
Logical-mathematical, used by scientists, reasoners, lawyers,
Spatial, needed by engineers, surgeons, sculptors, painters,
Musical, found in musicians, composers, dancers, actors.
Kinesthetic, crucial for athletes, performers, craftspersons,
Interpersonal, key for sellers, leaders, teachers, service
Intra-personal, used for understanding self and others, feeling
one has the same pattern of these varying abilities; look around
And no test measures them all; school exams and college admissions
tests measure just the first two.
Giedd concludes, "Teens have the power to determine (the
direction of) their own brain development whether they do
art or music or sports or videogames or books, those brain structures
are adapted accordingly." (And by inference, those structures
not stimulated may be pruned away for allow for the growth areas.)
get specific. The NIMH studies in the Feb. 28, 2000 Newsweek note:
Brain size may stabilize by age 5 but brain growth and change
continues through the teen years in differing ways.
Nerve cells aiding intelligence, consciousness, and self-awareness
keep growing even into a person's 20s.
Frontal lobes that aid self-control, judgment, emotional maturity,
and organizing and planning ability grow again, starting at about
age 10 for girls, 12 for boys.
stimulates brain focusing abilities expand if stimulated
or shrink if neglected.
Each part of the brain improves in different ways. The parietal
lobes controlling sight, sound, and speech, the interconnecting
circuits, the temporal lobes that control language and emotions,
the hippocampus that creates memories, and the amygdala controlling
fear and anger mature with androgen, a male hormone.
birth through the late teens, the brain adds billions of new cells,
building new circuits of freshly made neurons as teenagers interact
with their environments." (New York Times)
is not simply a matter of slipping 'software' (learning) into
existing equipment. Instead the 'hardware' changes itself, in
those directions stimulated. Think of it as nature's way of giving
us a second chance!" (NIMH)
can you put this exciting new opportunity to work for you? Try
How do I spend my mental time and energy at the present time?
Which reasoning skills am I therefore building the most?
Thus, which brain cells are being pruned away or "strained
out" by neglect?
How am I selecting what I think about?
How much time and energy do I actually focus on my mental growth
What effect will these choices have on my future success in college?
In my career? In life itself?
you spot places where change will benefit your future?