Frances Jensen

Neurologist and mother

"Teenagers are learning machines."

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The teenage behaviors, that many times us seem irrational or testaduras, can have your origin in problems related to the brain development, specifically of the frontal lobe and the areas that use the centers of risk-reward. Before judging your children, you need to remember that sometimes their brains just aren't able to reach certain types of conclusions and that maybe it's your role to help them follow a particular line of reasoning. As a mother, I know that sometimes it's sometimes difficult to remain calm during an emotional outburst. However, if you stop to think about it, almost all behavior has a biological basis. It's worth remembering that teenage brains are more active than adult brains, as they have more cells and connections. Also, the frontal lobe of a teenage brain finds it more difficult to control certain emotions. In that sense, there are several studies made with scans IRM functional that us point out that the adolescents answer the lookalike before a stimulus emotional.

For all of this, is important that keep a good relationship with our children since experience very high levels of estrésy go to need our support, even in your first years as adults. It's up to parents to control their emotions and stop to think before judging.

With respect to if is differences among boys and girls, seems that the boys, in general, are about two years for behind the girls in what adverts to complete your development brain, especially with respect to the pruning of the sinapsis and the mielinización that is isolating these connections. However, all children are different, with some girls developing later and some boys developing earlier.

"Teenagers are learning machines."

Are teenagers more susceptible to stress? The answer is yes, largely because they have a more intense unconscious response to emotional stimuli. Also, stress levels that could be temporary in adults might last longer for teenagers and may even result in post-traumatic stress disorders or depression years later. In that sense, enters game the so-called plasticity sináptica, that is how create and mold the sinapsis and connections according to the experiences. For example, if a child studies music, they will develop more connections related to music. Synapses are also involved in the development of unwanted behavior such as a predisposition to experience addictions. This is because addictions are another way of learning that create stronger synapses in the reward circuits of adolescents than adults. Whenever I speak to teenagers I try to give them the following advice: "Take care of your brain now and it will take care of you in the future."

It's important to stress this point, as drugs have a greater effect on teenagers' brains as they are more vulnerable. For example, know that the alcohol consumption for the last years of the adolescence affects the sinapsis of the brain and modifies your circuits. There are even studies that demonstrate that people who consume alcohol on a regular basis during their adolescence tend to take more risks when they're adults than those who don't. Similarly, the use of cannabis has been shown to decrease synapse activity, which impedes synaptic plasticity. In short, everything that happens to a person during their adolescence might permanently change the structure of their brain in the future.

A lack of sleep can also reduce a person's ability to create synaptic plasticity. Owe understand the hardship of the dream as another way of stress; and more so for adolescents, whose body clocks are different to those of adults. Adults start to secrete melatonin (the hormone that makes you sleepy) at around 9pm. However, adolescents don't start to secrete melatonin until around 11pm, which is why they find it difficult to go to bed or get up early, as it's the wrong type of sleep cycle for them. That's why many teenagers are chronically sleep-deprived, a fact that could make us stop and think whether we should take biology into account when planning school timetables.

Before ending this interview, I would like to invite teachers to check out the studies into the teenage brain that have recently started to be published, because, as educators, they're having an impact on the synaptic plasticity of their students. In my opinion, owe observe your health emotional, as well as stimulate them and help them to that explore to themselves. We now know a lot about how the brain works and can use all this information to help children have a happier adolescence and to encourage their brains to be more productive.

Frances Jensen is a leading authority on how teenage brains work. President of the Department of Neurology of the University from Pennsylvania, has an extensive experience as teacher of neurology in the School of Medicine from Harvard, director of neuroscience traslacional and director of investigation on epilepsy in the Hospital of children from Boston. Ms. Jensen has written numerous books, including "The teenage brain. A neuroscientist's survival guide to raising adolescents and young adults", which explains how the brain functions during this intense period of growth.