The Teenage Brain at Work

HEALTH - The teenage brain is a stage of growth and cerebral reorganization. Teens see major changes in their frontal cortex, and this is equally true for both women and men.

The cortex is the outer layer of the brain and is the most sophisticated part of the brain. The frontal cortex is where our highest-level thinking and analysis take place.

During the teen years and early adulthood (up to the early 30s) this part of the brain grows lots of white matter in the form of myelin. Myelin is a fatty layer that insulates nerve fibres so they can communicate more quickly with less interference. The more myelin insulation the more efficiently the brain cells work.

Teenage brains also lose synapses (connections) among nerve cells. This pruning process is critical to making the brain's functions more swift and powerful. During this time the teenage brain develops the ability to think abstractly and discover how complex systems work. Thus teens and young adults learn both broadly and deeply, often mastering a topic they care and becoming an expert in it in a relatively short amount of time.

Thus these early years don't really benefit from memorizing meaningless facts (ie. history class), but learn faster by doing and becoming experts at making/fixing things. Its a more creative time in human development.

Thus teenagers often seek to express themselves and their unique identity. Social interaction and communication becomes very important, which explains the popularity of instant messaging, Facebook and cell phones amongst young people.

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