beautiful teen brains (as capable as an adult’s)





Why do teenagers act the way they do? Viewed through the eyes of evolution, their most exasperating traits may be the key to success as adults.”

National Geographic

teen brain Harvard magazine








This is about teens … their <maddening> brains … science … and the art of how we can <positively> influence them.


And, yes, beautiful brains refer to the teenage brain.



And, no, I have not been drinking nor have I become <officially> delusional because I agree that the teenage brain is beautiful … beautifully creative, insightful, sharp, inquisitive, non linear & fragmentally brilliant (among other things).



Personally I love the way the teenage brain works and dealing with it.




If I was a parent and had to deal with this inconsistent brain 24/7 I am sure I would have a different perspective (or at least it would be colored by that perspective).



Beyond parenting … let’s focus on how the teen brain works and what it creates (beyond the obvious fairly maddening decisions) … because it is typically quick, expansive and sometimes quite brilliantly random, therefore, while it may appear impossible to deal with it is at the same time a whetstone for our own adult brains.


It hones us adults and sharpens our own logic, thinking & articulation skills (as well as our patience & character I imagine).



Their brains force US to weave our way through a veritable hornet’s nest of thoughts & thinking to uncover some pretty insightful quick thinking sharp ideas.




Think about that for a second.


And maybe that is why their brains are so maddening to us. It makes us work too hard. Or maybe it makes us move more quickly mentally then we typically are comfortable with. But think about what we “get” if we get involved with the intensely intricate beautiful brain.



We get the opportunity to jump in the middle while all that stuff is being jumbled in their head …. and … well … unjumble. And decipher. And guide. And redirect. And repurpose. And rejoice.



But we don’t get to relax. And maybe, once again, this is where we fail, or struggle.



For even if we redirect & repurpose a teen thought it doesn’t stop moving …. it interacts with everything else that is going on in their brain and in an iterative fashion it begets additional brain activity.





You snooze you lose.


Slow no go.


Pick your bad poetic poison.



If you don’t get in and stay to play, well, I guess it is just maddening.




This isn’t just me that find their brains beautiful.

National Geographic wrote an article (called Beautiful Brains) and actually did research.



Here is the fascinating National Geographic article about the science behind teenage brains trying to understand why they are what they are.



National Geographic Teenage Brains:






The proof is that while their thinking may sometimes appear illogical that it is sharp thinking …. and … if you read between the lines (and think about it) you can see the small windows of opportunities of which if we glimpse them we can make massive impacts.



Research shows “there is simply too much going on in the brains of adolescents” for them to concentrate on the task at hand. That means resources and energy in the brain are wasted as it tries to identify what to focus on … and, as with anyone <even adults> that has a negative effect on decision-making.



The study shows that the brain doesn’t actually grow very much between 12 and 25. It has already reached 90 percent of its full size by the time a person is six. However during the teen years the brain undergoes extensive rewiring and restructuring (they suggest it is like having an electrician come in and do a complete rewiring job).


distraction because of too much stimuli



During this period the brain has a much better chance of being distracted by something … and by ‘something’ I mean ‘everything’. It’s just the way rewiring works.




It isn’t that a teen cannot focus … it is just sensory overload. There is too much stimuli. And the sheer volume of stimuli management is challenged in that they don’t have the experience to shut things out … or maybe better said … they don’t have an experience filter with which to prioritize the stimuli. (


In the end it is an overwhelming combination of too much and an inability from lack of experience to manage.


It is easier for a teen to shift focus than to keep focus.


In National Geographic’s words … “In short, more grey matter means more room for mistakes and a sharp decline in efficiency.”



While us old folk may not like to hear this but as as we grow older we lose brain (it shrinks). but it’s not so much a loss as it is a honing. Our brains shrink, becoming more efficient, and (hopefully) less prone to distraction and what could be construed as stupid immature <inexperienced> mistakes. That honing is a double win for most adults. Less room for random distraction combined with more experienced stuff crammed into it.


A Cornell study also points out that while teens do a lot of irresponsible things (drinking & driving, sex, drugs, smoking) it is not because they think they are invulnerable or haven’t thought about the risks.

In fact, the Cornell study suggests they are more likely to ponder the risks, take longer (about 170 milliseconds more) weighing the pros and cons of engaging in high-risk behavior than adults — and actually overestimate the risks.


“It’s just that they often decide the benefits — the immediate gratification or peer acceptance — outweigh the risks”, says Valerie F. Reyna, professor of human development at Cornell.



If you buy that (risk versus reward) and the fact that psychologists have found that teenagers are about as adept as adults at recognizing the risks of dangerous behavior you have to begin understanding the role we adults play (and in fact the opportunity we have).


This beautiful brain is a massive network of neurons constantly assessing the costs and benefits of potential actions calculating the reward … how far they are willing to go to gain the reward (the risks) and making judgments in hundredths of a second.



The article does a nice job of pointing out that at some level and at some times (and it’s more the parent’s job to spot when to communicate … then the teen’s to ask for communication) a teen recognizes that the parent can offer certain pearls of wisdom—knowledge valued not because it comes from parental authority but because it comes from the parent’s own struggles to learn how the world works. The teen rightly perceives that he/she must understand not just her parents’ world but also the one she is entering.


This last point is extremely important because:



“a sort of crucial period of learning—the wiring is getting upgraded, but once that’s done, it’s harder to change.”

Douglas Fields, a NIH neuroscientist



The teen is quite capable, if not as capable, as an adult to make a decision … they just need assistance in assessing and sifting through the stimuli … and I imagine with some sort of prioritizing as they assess.

If we miss this opportunity to assist simply because we judge a teen as “unable to make good decisions” or “immaturity” or <gasp> ADD … we are cheating them.

We have an opportunity to help with the brain rewiring … actually ‘upgrade the wiring’ if you will …. that is if we elect to do so.

This isn’t me … this is science telling us this.

I end (or close to the end) with that thought because I also found a whizbang interactive chart created by PBS on the teenage brain:

Even if you don’t give two shits about the teenage brain it is still interesting.




For the end.



From twitter:



ohteenquotes Clara Quiambao

I would love to meet the teenage version of my parents. Don’t you?

25 minutes ago





Am I asking us to be kids again? Nope.


We lived those years and those experiences help make us who we are today.

However … what I am suggesting is that we shouldn’t forget that we don’t have to be immature or foolishly act young … just interacting with children is how we return to our youth.



There really is no other way.



Any span of years we may live will never make what we say or do immortal. It is children that give each of us some immortality.


And with that thought we should all think of how we can help the beautiful brains … no matter how maddening they may seem at times.



Oh, and remember these wise words from one who you would have to have assumed would have been a stodgy Brit … and 2 time Prime Minister in the 1800’s … Benjamin Disraeli:

“Almost everything that is great has been done by youth.”

Smart guy for a Brit.

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Written by Bruce