Cleve Harrison PYSCH 1030 Guerin 9 March 2013 Inside the Teenage Brain Every human being on the face of the earth went through those fun, party filled teenaged years. During this time most everyone experienced mostly the same awkward moments. The time when teens feel they know everything, and are an adult. How is this explained and how does brain development explain how and what we learn? In a PBS documentary “Inside the Teenage Brain” by Sarah Sparks this is explained in a great amount of information. Did you know that during the teenage years, this is when the most development occurs?
People often wonder why it seems like their teens have been invaded by another body or why their baby suddenly wants to be separate from them. A study done by Dr. Jay Giedd who ran a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) on his own son shows some of the difference. An MRI is a magnetic field used to excite the atoms in the body and the energy emitted by these atoms is used to construct a computer-generated picture of the brain. (Pastorino) The MRI was used to show stages of the brain over time from early childhood into the teen years and comparing that with images from an adult brain to show what the differences were.
One of the biggest finds in the brain development of the teenage years was the fact that that frontal cortex of the brain takes on the image of a babies brain right before a child turns to their teenage years. This sort of “growth spurt” is responsible for a wave of over-thinking mainly due to the level of thickness in the gray matter or thinking part of the brain. (Sparks) As humans age the gray matter thickens and the executive part of the brain is formed during the teenage years. This is due to the neural connections in the frontal cortex of the brain as they are larger in a teen’s brain than in the normal adult.
This also is where the stages of pruning begin. This gives the brain shape for future strengths of what is learned. For example if you come from a family of mechanics and you are constantly under the hood of a car you are more likely to have a strength in fixing an engine or have a more natural lean towards that, instead of say cooking. (Sparks) Another aspect to explore is the characteristics of the brain during the teenage years. Most teens need nine and a quarter hours of sleep each night to be vivid enough to start their school day.
This study shows that most teens get an average of about seven and a half hours of sleep instead. (Sparks) Part of the reason for this as the events going around in the teens life, this is the discovery period of video games, late night television and when the brain tends to kick in more in teens and gives them a “second wind” instead of allowing sleep. The program shows that teens who get more sleep, primarily REM sleep, tend to have better functions than those who get less. One of the major characteristics of development is the interior prefrontal part of the brain.
In teens this has less function than in adults, but the flip side to this is the emotional region of the brain in teens is more active than that of adults. This explains why teens have baby like tantrums if they don’t get their way or we hear the infamous grow up or act your age from parents to their children. Other aspects in the characteristics include the cerebellum of the brain. The cerebellum changes the most in teens, this gives teens the ability to coordinate their thoughts into cohesive and understanding sources.
This is also the reason teens are more likely to experience more with drugs and alcohol as this is the time when curiosity gets the best of people in their adolescent stages. (Sparks) In some states, an attempt to get teens the full recommended sleep has led to a later school start. In Minnesota, school starts a full hour later than it used to begin. While this has led to more attentive students in the first part of the classes it has also began to affect extracurricular activities which are also very important in the development of teens. This also affects family time.
Given all the new findings adults are learning better ways and more understanding ways to relate. Teens want relationships with their parents and want them to ask if something is wrong and have open discussions with them. Kids want more one on one time instead of feeling like they are being forgotten or ignored as children. This study has shown that teens who have a better relationship with their parents tend to fair better in society and develop better. While teens still want some form of independence, they still want the reliance that is there for them if the need it with their parents. (Sparks)
Growing up we all have experienced the ups and downs and the fun that is being a teenage. From the awkward start of puberty through the first driving experiences it is easy to understand why we were all so rebellious. For me, being very close to my mother and not so much to my father it was a little different. Being one of twins and with a sister ten years older than me it was almost like being a generation apart. During my teenage years my father had my brother in the tobacco field while I was at home with mom and have a more care-like nature about me. During my teen years I fought more with my mother, while still staying close to my father.
Whereas my brother was out doing regular teenage stuff, experimenting with drugs, alcohol and having sex. During my teen years extracurricular activities were very my teen stuff. I was a band nerd, journalist and part of the student government and enjoyed my after school time. While looking back I wish I had been more sports active for more social skills I grew up with that yearning to learn. Being close to my parents in my teenage years allowed me to shape my future. I took care of my parents at the close of their lives while my brother was more secluded and off to his own not knowing how to deal with what was happening.
I am happy to have had the experience as a teen of growing and learning more from my parents and family than doing the party thing. The learning experience from the PBS Special is invaluable. Learning why and how we all react as teens gives hindsight to everything experienced. The good, the bad and that embarrassing. Works Cited Pastorino, Ellen, and Susann Doyle-Portillo. What Is Psychology? 3rd ed. Australia: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2006. Print. Sparks, Sarah. “Inside the Teenage Brain. ” PBS. PBS, 09 Mar. 2002. Web. 09 Mar. 2013.