Much scientific research has historically focused on the brain of infants as they begin to develop their mental abilities, and on diseases that begin to sap the brain power of elderly. Only recently has the adolescent and teenage brain gotten its proper due. Neuroscientists are probing not only the sensitive stages where the brain makes a healthy move from childhood to adulthood but also the potential snags that can upset the transition.


NEARLY EVERY psychiatric disorder differs between girls and boys. Only eating disorders appear to be more common in girls, who also suffer more migraines because of hormonal changes. Boys are more likely to have autism, ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, dyslexia, and a host of other complications. Researchers note that females have larger basal ganglia than males and wonder whether that difference influences women’s greater protection against some mental disorders. ;Basal ganglia assist the frontal lobes in performing their executive function. Could it be that greater influence of the basal ganglia provides some protection against certain learning disabilities?

Attention Deficits - Gray Matter is Thickest in Girls at age 11, In Boys at 12 years of age.

ADHD can occur m children when the prefrontal lobes of the brain haven’t developed enough for an adolescent to exercise self-control. About 4 percent to 5 percent of children share this disorder, which becomes increasingly important as children are forced to assimilate information rapidly to keep up in an increasingly technological world.

“As the number of sensations increase, the time which we have for reacting to and digesting them becomes less . . . the rhythm of our life becomes quicker, the wave lengths of our mental life grow shorter,” wrote historian James Thurlow Adams. “Such a life tends to become a mere search for more and more excmng sensations, undermining yet more our power of concentration in thought. Relief from fatigue and ennui is sought in mere excitation of our nerves, as in speeding cars and emotional movies.” Adams wrote those words in 1931, bur his observations about more sensations arriving at the brain with more and more rapidity could have been penned yesterday and applied to our current understanding of modern adolescent confusion.

Adolescents grow up in an environment that places increasing demands to do multiple tasks at the same time. Their brain attempts to adapt by rapidly shifting attention from one thing to another. While many manage the problem and still function well in a learning environment, others find it impossible to maintain their attention long enough for significant learning to occur.


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