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Scans of brain suggest teens are not yet wired for sound judgment Federal

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  • Scans of brain suggest teens are not yet wired for sound judgment Federal

    For all you kids that keep saying that age is just a number and adults are just tyrannical menaces... there is some medical proof that we might actually know better...

    Scans of brain suggest teens are not yet wired for sound judgment

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
    Published on: 11/04/06
    Jeneane McGuire was dressed in cap and gown, ready to enjoy one of the happiest days of a teenager's life.

    She went from beaming to busted, however, as her mother opened — in front of all the relatives — a citation telling Jeneane that her driver's license had been revoked.

    The graduate with the 4.5 grade-point average had blown off a ticket for reckless driving that she'd received months earlier in a sneak trip to Panama City. "I had a lot of explaining to do," said McGuire, now 27.

    Any parent of teenagers knows the story: A perfectly behaved, smart preteen can turn crazy and stay that way for a decade. For years, poor judgment, curiosity and rebellion have been attributed solely to the wild hormonal roller coaster ride of adolescence.

    But new brain imaging research indicates that teens sometimes act the way they do — making bad choices, failing to see consequences and acting impulsively — because their brains are simply not finished growing.

    It may not be that the devil made them do it, but maybe that their frontal lobes and white matter did.

    "What imaging studies are telling us is that the brain is still developing throughout adolescence," said Dr. Erin McClure, professor of psychology at Georgia State University. "We're not as fully mature as early as we think we are."

    Most of the time, the consequences are relatively minor, or even funny, in retrospect.

    Other times, however, the results turn tragic: two 20-year-olds were sentenced Thursday by Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Richard Wine-garden to serve prison terms in the deaths of Julia Burns, 61, and Jacob Miller, 17, in March, 2003. Wendy Jennings was 16 when she challenged Susan Osley, who was 17, to street-race in their BMWs, according to court records. Jennings lost control of her car as she sped at 80 mph on Peachtree Parkway, killing Miller, her boyfriend who was a passenger in her car, and Burns, who was driving a Honda.

    And the sentencing is just weeks after another teen tragedy. Louise Egan Brunstad, 16 and allegedly upset over a friend's rejection, tried to take her own life in her family's Mercedes in early October. Instead, a mother of three driving a Daewoo was killed as the Mercedes crashed into it.

    Brunstad is charged with felony murder in the death of Nancy Salado-Mayo.

    While driving, Brunstad allegedly had been text-messaging a countdown to impact.

    Poor connections

    The physiology of neurological changes during the teen years are becoming so well documented by researchers, that they are starting to question how we rear our older children — should we limit access to cars, for example, and nix trips to Cancun?

    "There are actually structural things that happen in the brain that take a while to come online," said Dr. Aysenil Belger, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and director of neuroimaging research.

    Specifically, two key areas might be different in teen brains than in adult brains, according to experts. One has to do with circuitry in the frontal lobes; the other, new research is suggesting, has to with something called white matter, a type of tissue that connects various regions of the brain. In teens, white matter may not be as mature as it is in adults, which may result in poor connections between regions of the brain that work together when making decisions.

    There is also some evidence that the brain sprouts extra connective tissue right before puberty — sort of like spring weeds crowding out your daffodils and tulips.

    During adolescence, scientists believe, the brain thins out that unnecessary connective tissue in what neuroscientists are calling "synaptic pruning." That pruning "helps the brain to be much more efficient," said Dr. Susan Tapert, a professor and psychology at the University of California San Diego said.

    But before that pruning, disconnections may occur in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that governs "executive function" — critical thinking skills, judgment and the ability to multitask, which has become ever more important in the complicated life of most Americans.

    Those skills are particularly critical in driving. "Kids can multitask pretty well, but driving has a lot of demands," Tapert said. Add emotions — even such as other kids in the car talking and laughing — and "adolescents may be at much greater risk," Tapert said.

    Some scientists also believe that teens may have a problem thinking critically because of possible malfunctions in white matter, small bundles of connective tissue within the brain.

    These connective fibers act like surface streets, carrying thoughts and information from one part of the brain to other, larger parts that might be considered the brain's superhighways, Belger and others said. Because teens' white matter may not be fully mature, "their super highways are still under construction," McClure said — and crashes can occur.

    The construction work may also be a roadblock to assessing risks and consequences, all of which can have profound consequences on teens as they consider whether to drink or have sex — or sneak off to Panama City.

    Hindsight is clearer

    Even young adults realize the difference in their thinking — with just a few years of perspective.

    Cora West, 23, laughs at the time she took her father's charge card — without his permission — and charged hundreds of dollars worth of lumber on it. It seemed perfectly reasonable to West, who was designing a set for her high school play in Salt Lake City.

    What was she thinking?

    "I think I was thinking I was going to hold off and tell him later," she said. "But he saw the bill first, and he was really mad. And wood's not really returnable, so I was sort of stuck with it."

    The set turned out beautifully.

    And the cast learned how to landscape.

    "My dad made us all do yard work for a couple of weeks, planting flowers, raking," said West.

    Sarah Mitchell, 20 and now a junior at Georgia Southern, showed her parents just what a great driver she was when she sneaked her father's Jaguar convertible out of their garage — with a car parked behind it and seemingly no way out.

    "We came home and opened the garage door, and the car was gone," said mother Lisa Mitchell of Alpharetta. "We still don't know how she did it. She just turned the wheel, inch by inch, little by little, until she was able to get it into the other side of the garage."

    What was Sarah thinking? And how did she think she would get the Jag back into the garage?

    She admits she hadn't thought things through that far. "I don't think," she said laughing, "anything was going on in my teenage brain."

    No watching and learning

    But that "I don't know" moment — the most common comeback in teen speak — is of huge concern to researchers, pediatricians, teachers and, of course, parents. Especially because, unlike adults, teens do not appear to learn from others' mistakes and tragedies — whether it's a death or a pregnancy or an illness.

    Once again, researchers point to physiology. "The mature brain will use the information hardware," Belger said. "The teenage brain will not."

    And that's important for parents to keep in mind, the researchers said.

    Given the wrong mix of circumstances, things can turn dangerous fast, and a very responsible teen can lapse into bad judgment.

    "With friends chit-chatting in the car, who knows what they will do," said Belger.

    "Put that in combination with someone who is a known risk-taker, and it's a recipe for tragedy."
    Not everything that makes you mad, sad or uncomfortable is legally actionable.

    I am not now nor ever was an attorney.

    Any statements I make are based purely upon my personal experiences and research which may or may not be accurate in a court of law.

  • #2
    ..."There are actually structural things that happen in the brain that take a while to come online," said Dr. Aysenil Belger, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and director of neuroimaging research....

    I wonder how much we had to pay for this brilliant statement?
    “Be not niggardly of what costs thee nothing, as courtesy, counsel, & countenance.”

    --Benjamin Franklin


    • #3
      To further add to this, I was watching a segment on The Today Show this weekend about marrying young. It was stated that as a rule, the part of the brain that controls romantic feelings is not developed enough to make a rational decision until around age 25. That is probably one reason the divorce rate, teen pregnancy rate and abuse rate is so high among teens and young adults.
      HOOK 'EM HORNS!!!
      How do you catch a very rare rabbit?
      (unique up on him)
      How do catch an ordinary rabbit?
      (same way)


      • #4
        My father was right.

        My father always said that he should have put all six of us in barrels and feed us through the hole untill we were 25.

        I thought he was being a wize guy!

        I hate to admit he was right


        • #5
          In another instance I read about, an 18 year old pleaded guilty to a felony (I can't recall specifically what he was charged with or even if he was actually guilty) because it would be faster than pleading not-guilty and he was afraid he'd miss a party that night.

          As a result of which, he now has a felony record to drag around with him for the rest of his life.

          Hope it was a good party.
          The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


          • #6
            Hopefully all of the 14 and 15 year olds that are in "love" will read this before they "run away together".