Presentation on theme: "“The Teen Brain: A Work in Progress”"— Presentation transcript:
1 “The Teen Brain: A Work in Progress” Karen HintzFamily Living AgentUW-Extension, Door CountyDianne WeberFamily Living EducatorUW-Extension, Eau Claire CountyIntroductory/Attention-getting ideas:Wear the t-shirt that says “Parents of teenagers know why animals eat their young.”Post “Zits” and other teen-related cartoons around the room.Ask participants to fill in the blanks in the following sentence; share responses:“Living with a _16_-year-old is definitely a __mystery_ because __you aren’t sure what to expect from one day to the next_.” “You must look for clues and not ask a lot of questions of your teen!”Read from the jacket of The Primal Teen.Share a personal story.Note: The title “A Work in Progress” refers not only to the fact that the brain is not fully developed until at least early adulthood, but also that we only recently have begun to understand brain development to this degree, and the research and understanding will continue to be updated.
2 Pre-Test:1. Most behavior changes in adolescence are due to hormones T F2. The brain is fully developed in the first three years of life T F3. The average teen needs 9.25 hours of sleep each night T F4. Nicotine affects adults and teens in the same way T F5. After age 12, parents don’t have much influence on their child’s development T FAnswers will be provided at the end of the program.
3 Teenagers DO have brains. . . They just function differently from adults! We’ve established that parenting teens can be challenging. . .And it’s good for parents to understand that (at least in most cases) the child hasn’t chosen to be difficult at this age!
4 Objectives1. Participants will develop an understanding of how teens’ behavior is affected by their brain development2. Participants will learn how to provide experiences that will promote optimum brain development
5 Outline Defining adolescence Brain development and behavior in teens Some risks associated with the teen yearsWhat adults can do to promote good brain development
6 Defining AdolescenceThe period between the onset of sexual maturation & the attainment of adult roles & responsibilitiesInvolves psychological, social, legal, and biological changesThe transition from:“child” status (requires adult monitoring) to“adult” status (self-responsibility for behavior)The stage of life known as adolescence brings out strong reactions in everyone, including teens themselves. It is an awkward period of development where biological changes bring about sexual development followed by the attainment of adult roles and responsibilities, like the driver’s license, first job, graduation from high school, voting, and so on.Sexual maturity, or puberty, comes before the brain is fully developed. Brain maturation correlates with age and experience and is relatively independent of the timing of puberty. Brain development continues long after puberty is over. We are going to talk about how knowledge about the continuing development of the brain during the teen years can help us understand the behaviors we see during these years.Teens need parents and other adults in their lives to provide guidance and monitoring of activities, so they can successfully navigate the adolescent stage of life to adulthood and independence.
7 Physical growth is most obvious in teens, but this is also a time of emotional, intellectual and social growth. Sleep habits change and moods fluctuate. Sometimes it seems like they sleep all the time. Sometimes it might seem like you have a child having a temper tantrum in an adult-like body, instead of a two year old body!
8 Of course there are also many physical changes at this time Of course there are also many physical changes at this time. And talking to parents about any of these changes can be SOOOO embarrassing!
9 “Storm & Stress”Many adolescents navigate this interval with minimal difficultiesIncreased conflicts with parents/increased stress of parentsGreater mood volatility & increased negative moodIncreased romantic motivation & sexual interestIncreased risk behavior, recklessness & sensation-seekingMany (perhaps most) teens navigate the period between childhood and adulthood without much difficulty.However, the teenage years are often a mystery to parents, because of the unpredictable moods and behaviors of American teenagers. This brings more conflict in the parent-child relationships and an increase in negativity.Feelings of love and passion and sexual interest also increase during adolescence. The average teen has several years with a sexually-mature body, yet a relatively immature neurobehavioral system necessary for self-control, planning and good decision-making.Adolescence is a time when young people have more freedom and they seek out risks. This can be both positive and negative. It is a great time of discovery, but it is also a time when mortality rates increase 200 to 300% among teens, with accidents being the leading cause of death.So let’s begin to look at how brain development fits with adolescence. . .
10 Imaging Tracks Brain Maturation from ages 5 to 20 When examining the adolescent brain we find mystery, complexity, frustration, and inspiration. As the brain begins teeming with hormones, the prefrontal cortex, the center of reasoning and impulse control, is still a work in progress. For the first time, scientists can offer an explanation for what parents already know -- adolescence is a time of roiling emotions, and poor judgment. Why do teenagers have distinct needs and behaviors? Why, for example, do high school students have such a hard time waking up in the morning? Scientists have just begun to answer these questions, thanks to MRI.Constructed from MRI scans of healthy children and teens, the time-lapse "movie", from which the above images were extracted, compresses 15 years of brain development (ages ) into just a few seconds. Red indicates more gray matter, blue less gray matter. Gray matter wanes in a back-to-front wave as the brain matures and neural connections are pruned. Areas performing more basic functions mature earlier; areas for higher order functions mature later. The prefrontal cortex, which handles reasoning and other "executive" functions, emerged late in evolution and is among the last to mature. Studies in twins are showing that development of such late-maturing areas is less influenced by heredity than areas that mature earlier.Source: Paul Thompson, Ph.D. UCLA Laboratory of Neuroimaging
11 Human Brain: Side View cortex limbic system midbrain brainstem Brain StructureIf you draw a line from forehead to chin and open the brain for a side view, this is what you would see.The human brain is about the size of your two fists put together. It grows in sequential fashion, generally from bottom to top, or from the least complex part to the more complex part.1. The brain stem is at the base of the skull and it controls most basic life activities, including blood pressure and body temperature.The mid brain is at the top of the brain stem, also in the lower part of the skull, and it controls motor activity, appetite, and sleep.The cerebellum is behind the brain stem and it coordinates movement and balance.4. The limbic system is in the central part of the brain, and it controls emotions, attachment and memory.5. The cortex is the top layer, covering the brain surface. It is the “executive branch” and it regulates decision-making and controls thinking, reasoning, and language. It’s the least developed at birth. The importance of the cortex is illustrated by the fact that it is only the depth of two dimes placed on top of each other (this picture distorts that fact) and, yet, it contains 80 percent of the neurons and 75 percent of the synapses in the brain.limbic systemcerebellummidbrainbrainstem
12 Timeline of Brain Development Birth to 3 -- Time of rapid intellectual, emotional & physical growth of brain & brain “wiring”By age % of brain development completedPreteens (10-12 years) -- 2nd major brain growth spurtAdolescence (13-20s) -- Pruning and organizing, especially in frontal cortexNeuroscientists first discovered that in the first three years of a child’s life the brain grew in size and there were 1,000 trillion connections. This is a time of rapid intellectual, emotional and physical growth. The young child responds to stimulation with quick learning as she is read to, watches the activity in her surroundings and interacts with the family and others.While 95 percent of the human brain has developed by the age of six, Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Mental Health, later found that the greatest spurts of brain growth after infancy occur just around adolescence. These discoveries are changing the way we parent, teach, and understand our teenagers.Giedd found that the process of thickening of the brain’s gray matter peaks at about age 11 in girls and age 12 in boys, roughly about the same time as puberty. After that peak, the gray matter thins as the excess connections are eliminated or pruned.The exuberant growth during the pre-teen and teen years gives the brain enormous potential. The capacity to be skilled in many different areas is building up during those times. That includes the frontal cortex of the brain, the part of the brain involved in judgment, organization, planning, strategizing, which are those very skills that teens get better and better at with experience.
13 Frontal Cortex “CEO” of the brain Responsible for planning, strategizing and judgementGrowth spurt - ages 11-12Pruning / Organizing teen yearsThe frontal cortex and frontal lobes perform the executive functions of our lives and help us make sense of the flood of information which is constantly being gathered by our senses.The frontal cortex is in charge of planning, strategizing and judgement. In addition, the balancing of emotions and making sound decisions based on analysis of risk is thought to occur in this area of the brain.As stated earlier, there is a growth spurt in the brain’s gray matter during or right before puberty, at approximately 11 years in girls and 12 years in boys.This build-up stage is followed by a longer time period of organizing during the teen years, when the gray matter thins as the excess connections are eliminated or pruned.
14 “Thinking Brain” Development Maturity comes more slowly to the frontal lobes and frontal cortex“Pruning” occurs in the forebrain, allowing the brain to think more efficientlyBecause myelination is not yet complete, the brain is not yet working with optimum efficiencyDifferent areas of the brain are developing according to different timetables. The frontal lobes and frontal cortex are among the last parts to mature.During the early years of adolescence, there is a significant increase in the number of axons and dendrites making connections. As the teen years progress, organizing and pruning of unused message pathways begins.Significantly, there is also a major increase in the myelin present around the nerve fibers going in and out of the frontal lobes. This means faster communication between the brain cells and between the different parts of the brain, as the teen gets older. Until the myelination is finished, the brain is not yet working with optimum efficiency.
15 Adolescent Decision-Making Approaching adult levels of reasoning ability by 15But, high rates of “poor” decision-makingIn risky driving scenario, teens increased risk when tested in company of friends and adults didn’tIn many measurable aspects of decision-making, like tests at school and research experiments, adolescents are approaching adult levels of decision-making competence by age 15.Yet, in real life situations, such as when they are hanging out with friends or on a date, teens still show extremely high rates of “poor” decision-making.In a research study conducted by Lawrence Steinberg of Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, the decision-making ability of teens was compared to that of adults in situations of low and high emotions. Teens and adults were put through a computer simulation of a risky driving scenario where they were faced with a yellow stop light.Adolescents and adults reacted similarly when they were tested alone. However, when they were tested in the company of friends, adults showed no change in their reactions compared to when they were tested alone. But adolescents increased their risk-taking and were much more likely to run the yellow light when they were with friends.
16 What Does This Mean in Terms of Behavior? Lack of “common sense”Thinking that seems rigidDecisions that seem irrationalDisorganization everywhereBecause the pre-frontal cortex, the “thinking brain” is not fully developed until the early 20s, teens sometimes seem to lack common sense. They may be unable to think through all sides of an issue, and might even seem rigid in their opinions. The thinking brain is not yet ready to say “slow down, look before you leap.”Adolescent brains are simply not yet equipped to think things through in a rational way. They may jump to conclusions, see things superficially or narrowly, and make decisions that seem like poor choices.Emotions override some decisions.Some teens don’t even engage in the decision-making process; they just act with their “gut.”Disorganization prevails for many teens. Take a look at their bedroom, locker, or car for an example of this trait. When this disorganization spills over into school, grades may suffer if work is not getting done in a timely way.
17 Amygdala Quick emotional responses Used more by teens The amygdala is a small, almond shaped region of the brain that guides instinctual or “gut” reactions. This area is responsible for quick emotional responses, which are often interpreted as crude, rude and hostile!Teens use the amygdala more than adults for processing responses. Adults rely more on the frontal cortex, which governs reason and planning. As teens get older, their brain activity shifts more toward the frontal cortex and away from the cruder response of the amygdala.
18 “Emotional Brain” Development Emotional brain dominatesPrefrontal cortex is not ready to take chargeEmotional brain seeks pleasure, in the form of novelty, excitement, and riskDuring the teen years, the emotional brain often dominates, and seeks pleasure.Remember the prefrontal cortex is not ready to take on the role of “CEO” and can’t yet keep track of multiple thoughts, or analyze experiences in a way that allows mature decisions.There is an inability to see things from another’s point of view.While adults can use rational decision making processes when facing emotional decisions, adolescent brains are simply not yet equipped to think through things in the same way. For example, when deciding whether to ride in a car driven by a friend who has been drinking, an adult can usually put aside the loyalty to friendship and the desire to conform and is more likely to make the rational decision against riding with the drunk driver. However, a teenager’s immature frontal lobes may not be capable of such a cool, rational approach, and the emotional feelings of friendship may be likely to win the battle.“Good judgment is learned, but you can’t learn it if you don’t have the necessary hardware.” Dr Yurgelun-Todd
19 What emotion do you see? What emotion do you see in this face?? What emotion do you see in this face??At the McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., Deborah Yurgelun-Todd and a group of researchers have studied how adolescents perceive emotion as compared to adults. The scientists looked at the brains of 18 children between the ages of 10 and 18 and compared them to 16 adults using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).Both groups were shown pictures of adult faces and asked to identify the emotion on the faces. Using fMRI, the researchers could trace what part of the brain responded as subjects were asked to identify the expression depicted in the picture.The results surprised the researchers. The adults correctly identified the expression as fear. Yet the teens answered "shocked, surprised, angry."
20 Communication GapTeens are more likely to misinterpret facial expressions of emotionSee anger when there isn’t angerProcess in the amygdalaMay react quicklyYurgelun-Todd’s research found that teens may still be learning to accurately read the expressions of emotion on an adult face, often confusing fear, anger and sadness.These differences may provide important clues into how and why teens and parents sometimes have trouble communicating. Teens can see anger when there isn’t anger or sadness when there isn’t sadness. This can result in miscommunication both in terms of what they think the adult is feeling and then what the response should be to that.Adults process this information in the frontal cortex, while teens seem to use the amygdala, an area responsible for quick, emotional responses. The amygdala guides by instinct or “gut” reactions, while the frontal cortex governs reason and planning.The study showed that as teens got older, the center of brain activity shifted more toward the frontal cortex and away from the cruder response of the amygdala.
21 What Does This Mean in terms of Behavior? ImpulsivenessMood changesInadequate emotional controlSeeks out risks(This is a good point for participants to share examples.)Teenagers experience intense, powerful emotions. They tend to act before thinking and they can lose sight of the big picture and become overwhelmed by negative thoughts. You can expect more of an impulsive behavioral response, instead of a necessarily thoughtful one. Teens are certainly capable of thoughtful responses but it’s not uncommon for them to also respond impulsively.Hormonal activity and brain changes can create fluctuating moods in adolescents. They are still learning how to recognize feelings and how to deal with them. But until the frontal cortex, associated with impulse control and judgment, is fully developed their response may be more emotional.Biochemical changes in the adolescent brain actually influence teenagers toward taking risks. Adolescents are known for their attraction to anything new – a trait that serves them well at a time when to many things are new physically, mentally and in their relations with others. This attraction allows them to step up to challenges that daunt many adults, but it may also lead them to experiment with alcohol, other drugs and other risky behaviors.
22 Remember: the emotional brain is often in charge in teens. The teen brain, dominated by the emotional centers, seeks stimulation. The emotional brain does not consider options, weigh all sides of an issue, or analyze facts. It causes action. Because of this, your child, once so admiring of you as parents, so willing to help at home, and so eager to please, may change into someone you hardly recognize. The emotional brain seeks novelty and stimulation, and so the teen is drawn to experiences that will satisfy this need. We call this “risk behavior.”
23 Cerebellum Coordination of muscles and physical movement Coordination of thinking processes, tooDynamic growth and change during teen yearsAnother part of the brain – the cerebellum, in the back of the brain-- has usually been described as the part of the brain involved in the coordination of muscles. So if your cerebellum was working well, you were graceful, a good dancer, a good athlete.However, scientists are now finding that this part of the brain also undergoes changes during the teen years. The cerebellum is thought to help in the coordination of thinking processes, too.
24 Brain Coordination Can be physically AND mentally clumsy Not finished growing until early 20’sCerebellum influenced by experiencesNeeds “exercise” & practiceSince we are now finding that the cerebellum is involved in coordination of the thinking processes, it helps to explain why teens are both physically AND mentally clumsy. The ability to think through consequences and navigate a complicated social life is not completely developed in a teen. The cerebellum has not finished growing until well into the 20’s.The cerebellum is not very genetically controlled, and seems to be more influenced by experiences. For example, the cerebellums of identical twins are no more alike than non-identical twins. It seems that the cerebellum needs to be exercised and used, both for physical and thinking activities. Practicing activities that combine emotional, social, and cognitive factors will help promote myelination and enhance the cerebellum’s development. These activities might include debate, dating, and team sports.
25 Read cartoon.Just as children learn to swing and play on the “monkey bars”, teens are practicing their thinking skills. It isn’t uncommon for them to proclaim that “everything is stupid” or point out all the flaws in the adults around them.Are they being rude? Are they just trying to capture your attention? Or are they showing their mental “clumsiness?”
26 What does this mean for behavior? Feeling awkward about one’s bodyStrong romantic/sexual drive, without the mature ability to regulateAlternating between high expectations and poor self-confidenceGreater ability to do workTendency to return to childish behaviorDuring the teen years it is very normal for young people to struggle with their sense of identity. With all the physical and mental changes going on, the teen may feel awkward or strange about himself and his body.Adolescents do focus on themselves. Remember they can be mentally and physically clumsy, alternating between high expectations and performances and poor self-confidence and struggling efforts.Teens can surprise us and show great strides in doing physical work, and be very mature in a sticky situation, much like adults would behave.However, in a matter of minutes, especially when put under stress, their behavior can become childish, much to our surprise!
27 The Health Paradox of Adolescence Measures of most abilities indicate adolescence is the healthiest and most resilient period of the lifespanYet: overall morbidity and mortality rates increase % from childhood to late adolescencePrimary causes of death/disability are related to problems with control of behavior and emotion.In adolescence, physical health is approaching its peak. Adolescents are not only bigger and stronger than children, but also show developmental increases in a wide range of mental and physical abilities, including reaction time, reasoning skills, problem solving, immune function, and capacity to cope with many kinds of stresses and challenges. Yet, during this period of resilient health, burgeoning energy, and new-found capacities, we witness a dramatic increase in death and disability: soaring rates of serious accidents, suicide, homicide, aggression and violence, use of alcohol and illegal drugs, emotional disorders, and health consequences of risky sexual behavior. Again, the maturing adolescent brain plays a huge role, as well as the impact of social context and experience on the development of biological systems. There is an increase in risk-taking, sensation-seeking, and erratic (emotionally-influenced) behavior.Source: WCCF, Cerebrum, Dr. Ron Dahl
28 There are a lot of risks in the teen years, and parents have reason to be concerned. But risks can be both healthy and unhealthy. Lets take a look at some unhealthy ones first. . .We will look more at alcohol and other drugs, and nicotine, on the following slides.Violence is one of the leading caused of death during the teenage years, especially for African American youth. Research on violence should be added as it becomes available.
29 Alcohol & Other DrugsIncrease in dopamine which further encourages risk takingIncrease in depression and anxietyCan wound or damage brain(more than in adults)Hinder brain storage of new informationMood-altering drugs stimulate neurons to release a flood of dopamine. The brain responds by reducing the number of dopamine receptors on target neurons. Thus the drug high is reduced. However, the person’s ability to enjoy ALL normal pleasures is also reduced. Resulting feelings of depression and hopelessness lead the person to crave another blast of dopamine, and the pattern is set.Adolescent brains have long been thought of as more resilient, even after a good dousing of alcohol. But MRI and functional MRI of weekly and binge alcohol-drinking teen brains show delays in synapse resuscitation, damage to brain cells, impaired memory and cognition, and less overall brain activity. The impact was seen years later, after they’d stopped drinking. (Strauch, 2003)Teaching idea: Show a segment of the video The Secret Life of the Brain, Session Three, “A World of Their Own.” It has a nice representation/explanation of the reward pathways. You can watch part of the video with RealPlayer at
30 3-D Brain Scan Healthy Brain Ecstasy Brain 3-D Brain Scan Three weeks after Lynn took her last hit of ecstasy, she had a 3-D brain scan to help doctors diagnose her psychiatric problems. Doctors told her mom that Lynn's brain scan looked like someone who was 60–70-years old and had suffered multiple strokes. Lynn is only 24 years old. "There are very obvious marked differences between Lynn's brain after taking mind-altering drugs and a healthy brain. You see what look like holes...those are the areas where the brain cells are not functioning as normally as the rest of the brain." — Dr. Dominick Conca From the show What Parents Should Know About Ecstasy (oprah.com)After high school, Lynn moved to New York to pursue an acting career. Within five months, ecstasy had consumed her ambition. "It became a basic way of life. The more I did it, the more I felt like I didn't have a soul." "I gave myself this damage. It is what you strip yourself of every time you take ecstasy." — Lynn, 24 years old
31 NicotineWhen tobacco is smoked, nicotine is circulated throughout the brainCan stimulate feelings of pleasureAs addictive as heroin or cocainePeople who start smoking before the age of 21 have the hardest time quittingCauses far more illnesses and death than all other addictive drugs combinedWhen tobacco is smoked, nicotine is circulated throughout the brain. In fact, nicotine reaches the brain within 8 seconds after someone inhales tobacco smoke. Nicotine can also enter the bloodstream through the mucous membranes that line the mouth (if tobacco is chewed) or nose (if snuff is used), and even through the skin.Nicotine can stimulate feelings of pleasure, and is as addictive as heroin or cocaine.People who start smoking before the age of 21 have the hardest time quitting, and fewer than 1 in 10 people who try to quit smoking succeed.80-90% of smokers start smoking in their teens.30% of youth smokers will continue smoking and die early from a smoking-related disease.Source: WCCF, from
32 Other Concerns of the Teen Years DepressionEating disordersSchizophreniaMood disordersSuicideThese are risks that the teen is not choosing, but which parents should be aware of, since the age of onset is often adolescence and young adulthood. If there is a reason for concern, professional help should be sought – sooner rather than later.(Often related to drugs and alcohol.)Any habit started during adolescence will become harder to break – whether positive or negative.
33 This cartoon describes something else about teens that if you’ve had a teen you’ve noticed – their sleep patterns are NOT the same as adults or younger children.
34 Adolescents and SleepShift in Circadian (Biological Clock) to preferring later bedtimes and rise-timesNeed for sleep increases at pubertySocietal influences push teens toward sleep delaySleep deprivation commonBut a teen’s sleep habits are not an expression of defiance, rebelliousness, or laziness. There is a shift in circadian (biological clock) to preferring later bedtimes and rise-times (adolescent “owl” tendencies vs. child “lark” tendencies). Teenagers start to secrete melatonin up to two hours later than when they were younger. Melatonin is one of the brain’s sleep chemicals. As the day grows darker, it is secreted by the pineal gland and it helps make us drowsy. In addition to this shift, there is also a need for more sleep. Adolescents need about 9.5 hours of sleep per night, and even then they are often sleepy in the middle of the day.And although the changes in the tendency to want to stay up later are not great, social situations can result in a spiral effect that can impact every aspect of an adolescent’s life. Brain/behavior/social context interactions are key to understanding this problem.Technology (TV, computers, video games, music gadgets, etc), peer interactions (cars, phones, “significant others”), school schedules (homework, extracurricular activities, “early bird” classes), work obligations – all push in the direction of delayed sleep. In a social context, 100 years ago when it became dark, there were limited options for stimulating activity.In general many of our teens are continuously sleep deprived.Look for signs of sleep deprivation, such as:-- falling asleep spontaneously during quiet times of the day-- irritability or a lack of tolerance later in the day-- sleeping for extra long periods on the weekends
35 What are the Consequences of Insufficient Sleep? Decreased motivationSleepiness during the dayIrritability & low toleranceDifficulties in focusing attentionDifficulties with self-controlNegative synergy with alcoholDirect effects on learning, memory consolidationInadequate sleep on a regular basis can have adverse effects on teens.Decreased motivationWhen teens wake up tired, they have less motivation to go to school, and if they go to school tired, they also are less motivated to learn or get involved in activities.Sleepiness during the dayIrritability & low toleranceSleepy teenagers don’t have different emotions from others, they just have less control of those emotions and the emotions tend to be more exaggerated – both negative moods and silliness.Difficulties in focusing attentionDahl has found that too little sleep can, in particular, impair a teenager’s ability to do two important things at once, such as thinking and curbing emotions. . .Difficulties with self-controlSeveral of these symptoms, like difficulties in focusing attention and difficulties with self-control, can look like ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).Negative synergy with alcoholAnd the sedating effect of alcohol is exacerbated when teens are sleep deprived.Direct effects on learning, memory consolidationTeens are learning a tremendous amount and a good night’s sleep is being shown to make learning much more efficient. One of the functions of sleep is to consolidate what has been learned during the day.
36 Sleep Important for Learning z z z z Consolidate what has been learnedz z z z Prepares brain to take in new informationz z z z Learn new tasks fasterz z z z Retain newly learned informationResearchers like Caryle Smith, a professor of psychology at Trent University in Ontario, are finding how important sleep is for learning. He goes as far as to say, “The best predictor of how well someone is going to do at Harvard or wherever, is not their SAT scores or anything else; it’s whether or not they get a good night’s sleep.”Smith’s research focuses on increasing understanding of how the brain, during sleep, continues to process information that was learned while awake. He demonstrates that learning depends upon getting plenty of sleep to consolidate what has been learned and to prepare the brain to take in new information.Smith’s studies indicate that teens who get more sleep learn new tasks faster and are better able to retain newly learned information. Getting a good night's sleep helps reinforce the cognitive and motor tasks learned during the day. Conversely, sleep debts can have a powerful effect on a teen's ability to learn and retain new material -- especially abstract concepts in subjects like physics, math, and calculus.A recent study showed that rats who learned to navigate a maze in order to reach a reward, rehearsed the same maze in their dreams. Researchers pinpointed the area of the brain that was active when the rats learned the maze and then watched the same area light up when rats slept. During REM sleep, it appears that the brain integrates old memories with new learning to forge deeper, broader conceptualizations. Although most of the research has been with adults there are some compelling hints that these processes are even more crucial during development.A study of 4th & 6th graders found that an extra hour of sleep per night, above their normal amount, lead to improved memory function and test scores similar to those gained by 2 years of development. (The Effects of Sleep Restriction and Extension on School-Age Children: What a Difference an Hour Makes. Sadeh, Gruber, and Raviv. Child Development, March/April 2003, Volume 74, Number 2, Pages )
37 Vicious Cycle“Catch-up” sleep pushes circadian system to further delayUsing stimulants (caffeine & nicotine) can contribute to difficulty falling asleep (DFA)Full time students working more than 20 hours/weekStress and conflict contribute to emotional arousal and further DFAThe biological shift in sleep preference does not initially force adolescents to stay up later at night; it simply increases the likelihood that they will choose to delay bedtimes when they have the opportunity. The pubertal inclination to delay bedtime wins out over sleepiness. And, once established, these new sleep patterns can be extremely difficult to reverse.In a state of chronic sleep deprivation, the teenager is less able to focus on learning, perform less well, anxiety increases, stress interferes with the ability to fall asleep, emotional irritation causes problems with relationships, which causes more difficulty falling asleep. . .Obviously phase delay in the circadian rhythm combined with the biological need for sleep and heightened levels of stress hormones is a recipe for disaster.“Catch-up” sleep pushes circadian system to further delayUse of stimulants (caffeine and nicotine) can contribute to difficulty falling asleep. Not surprisingly, in an effort to avoid sleepiness during the day that results from sleep deprivation, adolescents often use stimulants.Full time students working more than 20 hours/week (Work demands make it necessary for the adolescent to stay up late at night to meet homework and study demands.)Stress and conflict contribute to emotional arousal and further DFA
38 Opportunities for Parents & Others Greatest spurts of brain growth since infancyEstablishing new linksDepends on use to become permanentPrevention & early interventionThe greatest spurts of brain growth, since infancy, occur just before adolescence. That means our teens have an enormous potential for learning new skills and honing their abilities, and should be encouraged.During the adolescent years, the teenage brain is establishing new links between more complex ways of thinking & new emotional experiences. Teenagers need a safe place to vent, and often the safest place is at home where they feel accepted, pimples and all!“New brain growth depends on use in order to become permanent rather than lost. Those cells and connections that are used will survive and flourish. So if a teen is doing music or sports or academics, those are the cells and connections that will be hard wired. “ (Jay Giedd)Prevention of unhealthy risky activities, like sexual activity and experimentation with alcohol and other drugs, is very important, because the adolescent has a natural tendency to seek out risks and novelty.If our teens have started to take unhealthy risks, early intervention is crucial. Strauch (2003) says a growing body of evidence suggests that as the teenage brain is being reconfigured, it remains more susceptible to long-lasting damage, making adolescence the worst time to expose a brain to drugs and alcohol or even a steady dose of violent video games.
39 These maps are a way to conceptualize a brain that is connection-rich, versus one that has connections pruned due to lack of use.The brain with many and varied connections, like the map on the left, has many ways of approaching goals and solving problems.The brain with fewer, and less strong connections, has limited choices, and it is slower in using those connections.
40 Provide Guidance and Opportunities Teens need to use their “thinking brains” for planning, analyzing, organizing, problem solving, and making decisionsA teen’s “thinking brain” or frontal lobes and prefrontal cortex need to be used and parents can provide guidance and opportunities for their teen.Here are some examples:use teachable moments...“what if” conversations about teen issues that are on television or in the newspaperask for your teen’s opinion about other’s experiences, such as car accidents...ask “what do you think?” and then LISTEN!role play or rehearse situations: “what would you do if ---?” This gives the teen a chance to consider actions before the situation arises, and he would have a prepared response.consider the positive and the negative aspects of extracurricular activities together...encourage your teen to weigh themallow the teen to take on some responsibilities, and live with the consequences.
41 Keep communication open, even if it’s scary. Keep an open mind.Encourage ideas they can learn by, even if you don’t really support them.Let them try!This cartoon may be an example of letting a teen take a rather “healthy risk.” Remember teens seek out risks!!
42 And as parents we need to be willing to let them learn. . . When we give them responsibility, we need to be sure we can live with the consequences!Ask participants to share examples of teens taking on a new responsibility or a “healthy risk”? (buying a surf board on the Internet to use in Wisconsin!)
43 Provide Opportunities for Enriching Experiences Limit use of TV and video games if they interfere with activities that allow for healthy socialization, physical activity, or real-life problem solvingAs stated earlier, the developing teenage brain “decides” what connections to wire in and what to eliminate based largely on what teens spend a lot of time learning and doing. That means teenagers have a rare opportunity to mold their brains to be good at things just by doing them a lot. If they want to learn a sport or a language or how to play guitar, now is a great time to develop these skills for life. (note: This doesn’t mean that we lose the ability to learn new things as adults, it is just that the brain is very primed for development during adolescence.)It also follows that it’s not a good idea for teens to “waste” this time lounging in front of the television for hours or spend an inordinate amount of time developing their video game skills!
44 Encourage Healthy Risks During the Teen Years SportsCreativityChallenging studiesJobsThere are many positive ways for the teen to meet the need for novelty and excitement. Travel, sports, hobbies, challenging studies are ways to stimulate the emotional brain in a safe way. And an added advantage is that these activities also promote the development of the thinking brain.Jobs during the high school years can provide beneficial challenges for the teen. A job requires the teen to organize time, manage money, accept direction, and make a contribution. (It is recommended that teens work less than 20 hours per week.)Adult guidance is necessary however, to make sure the teen is not neglecting other areas of his life for the obligations of the job. Working teens also benefit from guidance about the use of the money they earn, and this is another way to assist them in using their thinking brains.
45 Keep Communicating Listen Encourage Support To promote development of the thinking brain, keep communicating when you child becomes a teen!Listen to your teen with respect.Demonstrate an interest in the teen’s opinions and points of view.Realize that the teen’s brain is not ready to consider all sides of an issue – gently challenge your teen to do this.Use car time as an opportunity for conversation, or for listening to your teen and his or her friends.Watch TV together, and have conversations about what you are watching.Ask open-ended questions such as “what do you think?”Celebrate successes, large and smallAcknowledge effort.
46 Promote A Good Night’s Sleep z z z z Regular schedulez z z z At least 9 hours of sleep every nightz z z z Don’t sleep in over 1-2 hours past normal rising time z z z z Limit use of caffeine in afternoonz z z z Relaxing routine, not violent TV etc.Try to keep your teen on a regular sleep schedule. Say no to all-nighters. Staying up late can cause chaos to your teen’s sleep patterns and her ability to stay alert the next day. Tell your teen that the best thing she can do to prepare for a test, is to get plenty of sleep. Late-night study sessions might seem to give her more time to cram for the exam, but they are also likely to drain her brainpower.Most teens get about seven and a half hours of sleep each night, while they need more than nine. These sleep debts can have a powerful effect on a teen’s ability to learn. Negotiate a regular schedule with your teen for nine hours of sleep, and then help your teen see how these changes have affected his mood and performance on tasks like shooting hoops or doing math problems.Sleeping in on the weekend is a wonderful experience in adolescence after fighting to wake up early all week, but teens shouldn’t sleep in much more than an hour or two or they could throw off their body clock for the remainder of the week.After noon, advise teens to stay away from coffee, colas, sodas with caffeine, and nicotine, which are all stimulants.The National Sleep Foundation recommends that parents provide a home environment conducive to healthy sleep. This relaxing routine could mean establishing a quiet time in the evening when the lights are dimmed and loud music is not permitted. The Sleep Foundation recommends not using the television, computer or telephone close to bedtime!
47 And, above all, keep your sense of humor! You may wish to include the following quote:“All mammals are faced with the same problem. They have to go from dependence to independence. But they also have to make sure they don’t mate with their parents.”The Primal Teen
48 In Summary Brain development continues throughout life. The “emotional” brain shows earlier development than the “thinking” brainThe “emotional” brain seeks novelty and stimulation, sometimes met by risky behaviorRisks can be healthy and unhealthyAdults can and should provide guidance, opportunities, and environments that promote development of the “thinking” brain
49 Post-Test:1. Most behavior changes in adolescence are due to hormones T F2. The brain is fully developed in the first three years of life T F3. The average teen needs 9.25 hours of sleep each night T F4. Nicotine affects adults and teens in the same way T F5. After age 12, parents don’t have much influence on their child’s development T FANSWERS:1. False. As we’ve seen, the brain has a great effect on behavior, from the disorganization of the frontal cortex to the emotional reactions from the amygdala to the cerebellum’s lack of coordination!2. False. There’s a second major brain growth spurt in early adolescence, and pruning and organizing continuing into the early 20s.3. True--Teenagers need more sleep than adults-more than nine hours every night. But they are likely to get an average of only 7½ hours.4. False. People who start smoking before age 21 have the hardest time quitting.5. False. Although peers have increased influence, parents continue to have the most important and greatest role!
50 ResourcesAdolescent Brain Development: a Framework for Understanding Unique Vulnerabilities and OpportunitiesRonald E. Dahl, MD, Professor of Psychiatry & Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh, PAInside the Teenage Brain: A Guide for ParentsFrontline Program 1/31/02, Sarah Spinks, Producer
51 Resources, cont. The Secret Life of the Brain Program Three, The Teenage Brain: A World of Their OwnPBS, David Grubin Productions & Thirteen/WNET New YorkThe Primal Teen: What the New Discoveries About the Teenage Brain Tell Us About Our KidsBarbara Strauch, New York: DoubledayLorraine Henning, School Social Worker2004