teen brain

Everybody knows that drugs addiction and reckless driving on busy road specially one wheeling are very dangerous but why the teens fail to assess the risk of above given situations? Why do even parents get fail to educate and train them about risk assessment? Why do the teenagers commit the same mistake after bearing the severe after effects of their certain actions?

Answer to these questions does not lie in parents and teachers advices or suggestions. There are some other factors which are lurking behind the scenario. Dr. Peg Dawson and Richard Guare have elaborated this phenomenon in a very detailed way. They found that “Teens brain is biologically not ripen to assess the risk.”

FMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) studies demonstrated that teens pushes the load of their task to certain area of the brain (underdevelopment prefrontal cortex) instead of distributing the workload to specialized region of the brain (amygdala, insula), which are responsible for decision making related to safety and survival. That is why when the risky situation is reported to the adult, their response and understanding towards the risk is kind of practiced one, and not based on the larger area of their frontal lobe, which are responsible for direction of behaviors. As a result a risky situation remains less obvious to them. They are unable to assess the different levels of risks in different situations.

It is an observation that teens have a brain that is well suited for learning through experience and on the other hand they have brain which is ill suited for independent decision making about what those experience. Why? Following are some characteristics of the adolescent brain which are responsible for above mentioned phenomenon.

  • Neurotransmitter – a chemical like substance that travels to determine a nerve signal going on or halts. Basically level of these two neurotransmitters, Dopamine and serotonin lessen during adolescence which is responsible for decreased impulse control and mood changes. While increased level of another neurotransmitter Melatonin (responsible for sleep and wake cycle) result in intended period of sleep in teens.
  • Limbic system – it is considered the emotional part of the brain. In adults the emotions originate from the limbic system, but regulate with the help of fully developed prefrontal cortex. Contrary the incomplete development of prefrontal cortex and frontal lobes in teens, results in disturbance in emotions and drives. That is why teens are quicker to anger; display more intense mood swings and select on the base of gut feelings instead of logic.
  • Nucleus Accumbens – it is considered “reward centers” in brain. This area sends signals to conceive desirable activity. Dopamine is responsible for pleasurable feelings. As Teens have decreased level of stimulation due to the less of production of pleasurable feelings and reward which results in teens to seek excitement in new and intense experiences in which thrill and risk is associated.

To highlight these issues of development in the adolescent brain, an article in parade magazine compared the teenage brain to a Ferrari. It is fast, shiny, sleek and it handles well. The problem is it has lousy brakes.