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The Adolescent Brain

The Adolescent Brain. You might think it looks like this. Adolescence.

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The Adolescent Brain

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  1. The Adolescent Brain

  2. You might think it looks like this

  3. Adolescence Adolescence is not puberty. Puberty is the time when a person becomes able to reproduce. Adolescence is the period between childhood and adulthood that includes reproductive maturation as well as cognitive, social, and emotional development.

  4. Adolescents behave strangely due to brain development more than the wrongly accused hormones

  5. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has recently been a major tool in understanding the adolescent brain

  6. During adolescence, the brain is nearly full grown in mass, but not in maturity

  7. Brain goes through a period called “reconstruction” A critical period for the brain

  8. What happens? Period of regrowth for dendrites and synapses not seen since infancy

  9. Dendrites, branchlike extensions neurons use to receive signals from nearby axons, multiply.

  10. Pruning the unused neuronal axons (long nerve fibers that neurons use to send signals to other neurons)

  11. Mylenation (fatty insulation) makes working synapses more efficient and boost axons’ transition speeds up to a hundred times

  12. Thinking becomes faster as we get older due to this process • Use it or lose it • Thought processes, beliefs, interests, abilities, and skills will endure for a lifetime (get off the couch and get active)

  13. Adults use the prefrontal cortex to react logically to input. • Adolescents can use the prefrontal cortex, but it moves much slower

  14. Because the PFC is occupied, reconstruction causes impulsivity and poor decision making • During reconstruction in the frontal lobes, teens find it difficult to empathize and step into others’ shoes making them appear as self-centered • WHATEVER! Prefrontal cortex is also the province for language. Generating words for adolescents becomes more difficult. Become mumblers.

  15. Amygdala • While the PFC is busy, its responsibilities are pawned off to other parts of the brain, such as the amygdala

  16. Amygdala • Interprets input and regulates emotion • Emotions get the first say • Also readies the body for action when it perceives a negative stressor

  17. When students feel unsafe physically or emotionally, the stress-response system is activated. Anxiety, stress due to language barriers and cultural differences, relocation, bullying, infatuation and attraction, fear, embarrassment are examples of emotional landmines. • These cause stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) to override rational thought and lead the amygdala to very instinctual, emotional responses.

  18. Kids are constantly exposed to stress that our primate bodies aren’t built for, cell phones, fast info, computer games and movies, global access, constant social pressure due to social networking, can kick in the stress response during all waking hours.

  19. Risk Taking Behaviors • Chemical neurotransmitters react more to stressors. When something enjoyable happens, teens experience a dopamine increase which leads to a pleasure sensation. This rapid increase leads to teens feeling good when involved in intense experiences. This good feeling leads to young adolescents engaging in risky behaviors. • More stress causes risk taking behavior to replace negative feelings with pleasurable ones due to dopamine release.

  20. While this is going on, the PFC has not matured enough where risks can be adequately assessed • Adolescents aren’t oblivious to risks, they actually tend to overestimate the importance of the reward.

  21. What’s wrong with the brain • Nothing, its genetic • Preparation for leaving the nest • Think like an ape. Adult tolerance low. Competition high. • Risk taking is also linked to social bonding (birds of a feather, us vs. them, creating pleasurable experiences together bonds) • Peers are the future

  22. The end result of these amazing changes?

  23. So what is wrong with adolescents?

  24. NOTHING! Their brain’s under construction

  25. For more information please refer to the Parents’ Field Guide to Middle Schoolers on the school website.

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