I was chatting to a friend of mine recently who lamented the fact that I hadn’t posted a blog for a while…which was really surprising because I didn’t think that anyone actually read it. 🙂 So I thought that I’d start again. And as it turns out, I’m reading a perfect book, chock full of blogging material. It’s called The Owners Manual for the Brain, and what it does is give you the latest neuroscience on a range of a topics and then gives you practical applications for it. For example there are sections on how sleep affects the brain, how our brain develops as we age, what we know about how the brain repairs itself, how we learn etc. etc. I think you get the picture.
The section on the teenage / early adult brain is fascinating. First of all, there is lots of evidence that suggests that the brain doesn’t stop developing until we are 25-ish, not around 18 as I think most of us would have thought. During the period from early teens to 25 we learn faster and easier than at any other time of our life. Our brain prepares itself for all the learning we are going to do (potentially) by being the biggest it is going to be at around age 13. Combined with all this neural capacity is a massive influx of hormones and dopamine, which all leads to a desire to learn by experimentation…the riskier the better. Sounds like fun hey! The bad news is that between 13 and 25 our brain sheds lots of this grey matter, in effect the excess is pruned, if we don’t use it by learning stuff. The good news is that, at the same time it is laying down more white matter, which increases the permanence and speed of access of what we have learned.
The problem is that nature is a contrary Miss. At the same time that you youngsters are all ready to go out and experiment, the part of your brain that gives you judgment, the pre-frontal cortex, is TINY! So you have all this capacity and desire to learn…and no idea about what and how to learn. You also have incredibly poor judgement and assessment of risk at this time as well. In short, you are a disaster waiting to happen.:-)
So this has all been a long, rambling way of saying two things. First of all, don’t waste this period of your life, learn as much as you possibly can. And secondly, listen to us old bastards…we know what we are talking about, and you don’t! Ta ta for now. 🙂