Which Way Will You Choose?

Which Way Will You Choose?

Emily Shamalov, Editor In Chief

What makes a teenager? Making careless decisions, constant mistakes, and reaching out to new horizons are just some of the things that make up who teenagers are. The teenage brain is very complex.

Most of the time, when you see a teenager making a decision, it’s their version of exploring new versions of their lives and pushing their limits. Scientists believe that this is integral to the growth process of a teenager’s life. It’s just the beginning of the development of their maturity. This development is the beginning of their first independent experience by getting to know the world on their own.

A major reason why teenagers often respond to those influences with irrational decisions is the presence of a brain chemical known as dopamine. The brain releases dopamine when something makes us feel good, whether it’s receiving a teacher’s compliment or finding a $20 bill. Dopamine levels, in general, peak during adolescence. In teenagers, the strength of this “feel good” response helps explain why they often give in to impulsive desires.

B.J. Casey of Cornell University tries to understand these biological patterns in teenagers. In laboratory experiments, this brain scientist and her coworkers have seen increased activity in the ventral striatum whenever someone at any age is confronted by a risky decision or the offer of a reward.

However, this brain region seems “to be shouting louder” between the ages of 13 and 17 than at any other time during human development. Crucially, the ventral striatum also communicates with another brain region, this one located just behind the forehead. Called the prefrontal cortex, it’s the brain’s master planner. Another way to think of the prefrontal cortex is as the conductor of an orchestra. It gives instructions and enables chatter among other brain regions.

It guides how we think and learn step-by-step procedures, such as tying our shoelaces. Even preschoolers rely on the prefrontal cortex to make decisions. Overall, the prefrontal cortex’s ability to boss the brain increases with age.

In conclusion, the teenage brain is something that you don’t mess with. It goes through crazy adventures and is constantly thinking the craziest thoughts. Teenagers definitely go through an intense time in their lives, but it’s what makes them the good adults they become and those experiences build them up as a person.