Tag Archives: Sorry Dude

Freaky Friday: Teenage Brains

by Richard

We’re going to close out science week with a look at teenage brains, thanks to the fine folks over at National Geographic magazine. No, sorry, dude, I have no idea why National Geographic is talking about brains instead of mountains and suchlike.

Or naked tribeswomen. What? That was a big part of the allure of the magazine lo these many years ago.

One guess I’ve got on why the dudes at the magazine are focusing on brains is that the fellows at the National Geographic tv channel are running a big special on brains starting this Sunday (Oct. 9 for the date impaired). Nah. Cross promotion probably has nothing to do with it.

Anyway, back to the article. While it’s beautiful to look at, coming as it does from photographic champ National Geographic, the ground it covers isn’t all that new. Basically, the magazine is looking at stuff we’ve talked about on this site before.

Teenage brains aren’t done, they’re more like works in progress. Thanks to advances in medical imaging techniques, we’re able to look inside those scarily moody teenage brains and watch the thinking bits at work. We can then compare them to adult brains and see how the teenage brain is in the process of winnowing out connections that don’t work, or don’t work well enough, and establishing connections between neurons that more simply help it do the work it needs to do.

This is an ongoing process, one that doesn’t finally complete until well into the teen dude and dudette’s early 20’s. Not only that, the article says, but teens also are more prone to taking risks that adult dudes would shy away from. Basically that’s all up to dopamine, one of the brain’s key neurotransmitters that has to do with pleasure and risk-seeking behavior.

When (brain) development proceeds normally, we get better at balancing impulse, desire, goals, self-interest, rules, ethics, and even altruism, generating behavior that is more complex and, sometimes at least, more sensible. But at times, and especially at first, the brain does this work clumsily. It’s hard to get all those new cogs to mesh.

Which is why teenagers often do things that, to them, seem perfectly sensible, but to outside observers (read, parents) seems like screamingly, hair-raisingly dangerous and stupid.

Even as brain function develops, it doesn’t do so on a smooth path. There’s tons of stops and starts, screeches into reverse, and all sorts of jaggedy movement. Just so you understand why your teenage dude was a pleasure to be with at breakfast, but by lunch it was all you could do not to strap him to his chair with duct tape and call the exorcist.

Teenage brains: Cthulhu ain’t got nothing on them.

Go. Read. May it bring you comfort that you’re not alone and that there really is a reason for it.

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Back To Make You Feel Even Older

by Richard

Every year, Beloit College comes out with a mindset list to help professors there acclimate to just how, exactly, (if at all) their newly enrolled students (hello, Sarcasmo!) think.

Or, if not how they think, at least how they think about the world around them.

The class of 2015, which includes all this year’s incoming freshmen in college, are a strange bunch. At least to me. And I’ve got two of them (basically) running around in my life.

For instance, let’s look at their grasp of geography. To them, when we say Amazon, they probably think not of the majestic river, the home of biodiversity and the lungs of the world, but cheap books and electronics. Amazon.com, that is.

Ferris Bueller (Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?) and Sloane Peterson, the eternally truant high schoolers of that eponymous movie about a day off, are old enough to be parents to most of these freshmen.

For these freshmen, it’s not a big deal that there’s two women on the U.S. Supreme Court because it’s always been like that. And they also know how to swipe cards, not clothing. Or other merchandise.

Here’s a frightening one for you to think about: For these young dudes and dudettes, O.J. Simpson has always been “looking” for the “real killers” of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Looking hard, I’m sure. And probably avoiding mirrors.

Arnold Palmer isn’t a revered golfer, he’s the avuncular face on a can holding a great-tasting drink that mixes lemonade and tea. Of course, that’s not all that difficult for me to believe, because I’ve sort of thought the same way. Without the drink, though. I just never thought of Arnold Palmer. Sorry, dude.

These punks have always had electric cars somewhere on the highway, an information superhighway with an on-ramp in their home, and that life is like a highway. Okay, I just added that last one, but I can only say highway so many times without thinking of that son.

I’m old. Sue me.

Anyway, you should try and check out the rest of the list for some more interesting insight. Here’s one to think about. How much you wanna bet that in five years, one of the things on the Beloit College mindset list will be that the class of 2020 has always had a Beloit College mindset list to guide the thinking of their professors? It was first published in 1998.

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