The Brain

By: Meghan Waybrant



In the past few decades, we have learned more about the human brain then we have ever known before (Perry, 1996-2009). The one area that we have learned a lot about is the development of the brain from a child’s brain to an adult’s brain. The biggest discovery was finding that the teenage brain is in development from a child’s brain to an adult’s brain (Jensen, 2005-2009). So it has childlike characteristics and adult like characteristics. It’s not quite an adult brain, since it has a lot of pruning to do, but it is a lot more mature and pruned then a child’s brain. Since the teenage brain is still similar to a child’s brain, it is still at the critical stage (Jensen, 2005-2009), where learning and memory are at its best compared to later in life.

Through extensive research we have found that the brain develops from the back of the brain to the front of the brain (Jensen, 2005-2009). This meaning that the frontal lobe is one of the last areas to be developed. The frontal lobe is the area of the brain that controls decision, reasoning and judgement (Jensen, 2005-2009). Since this is the area of the brain that controls this and is the last part of the brain to develop, teenagers tend to take more risks.

 


Here is a diagram of the brain. As we can see, the brain “pruning” starts in the Occipital Lobe, then goes up and around to the Pariental Lobe and the Temporal Labe. Finally the “pruning” finishes in the Frontal Lobe.

Picture from website:
http://www.morphonix.com/software/education/science/brain/game/specimens/cerebral_cortex_lobes.gif



As teachers, knowing that the decision, reasoning and judgement part of the brain develop last, we have to understand that our students will be big risk takers and guide them to the more reasonable decision. Talk to them about the decision that they have made, help them understand what was good about the decision, and what was not. Have them rethink their decision, and now that they have the hind sight, what might have been the better decision. Tell the student that this experience can help them next time they are in the situation.

As teachers we have to think the situations and environments we put our students in and if these are the best environments where our students will make better decisions. We need to remember that our students will make risky decisions since their brains are still developing. Therefore we need to be reasonable, if our student makes a mistake as it is just a part of growing up. However, we cannot be naive about this information; this is not just an excuse for bad behaviour in our students.

This is a picture of a brain starting at the age of 5 and over the course of 15 years, how it changes and prunes itself. The last brain on the right side is what a brain looks like at age 20.(Giedd, 1999)

We have learned that as we grow up and develop, our brains go through a process call myelinization. Myelinization is when “new cells called glia form and nourish the neurons with fatty tissue called myelin sheath” (The Brain Slides, Laffier). In other words, the brain prunes away, all the matter that is not being used, or is not needed.

We have learned from the research from the study conducted by Dr. Frances E. Jensen, MD, that female brains mature much faster than male brains, about 1-2 years faster. The myelinization in the brain (pruning) finishes approximately 2-3 years earlier in female brain compared to male brains.

Being a teacher and now knowing this knowledge, should we have more gender based schools (Jensen, 2005-2009)? Where in the girl’s school, they should be challenged at an earlier age, where in the boy’s school the education is a little bit slower, because their learning process is not as high as the girls. Another option that could be done could be the having different education plans for females and males; having an education plan that will be created to suit the child’s strengths and weaknesses.

As stated above the teenage brain is stuck between a child’s and an adult brain (Lorain, 1997). It still very high strung and has many child like qualities. Since the teenage brain is still developing, it is susceptible to injury. The largest cause of brain injury in teenage brains is substance abuse (Jensen, 2005-2009).

Recent research has revealed that the system in the brain that is used for learning is the same system that addiction uses. Since teenage brains are at the peak of learning teens have a very high chance of getting an addiction problem. The younger the addiction starts, the more likely it will become a lifelong struggle. The teenage brain can suffer more damage from damage and alcohol compared to an adult brain. (Jensen, 2005-2009)

As a teacher we have to make sure that we explain to our students, the negative effects of alcohol and drugs. However, we should give usual ‘it’s bad for you,’ lecture, but instead what they can do to their brains and how too much of drugs and alcohol can lead to a life long struggle.  As a teacher, we have to know that no matter what we say teens will always be attracted to drugs and alcohol because of the risk factor, something we now know they are attracted towards.

When teaching we have to realize that our students have brain more similar to a child’s brain than to an adult’s brain. This means that all the decisions they make are being made or not being made is because their brain is not fully developed; especially the frontal lobe. But their brains are still at the peak at learning, so most learning and memorizing come easy to them. But through extensive research, the learning part of the brain is the same part that addiction does. Our students are very susceptible to getting a drug problem. We have to think with our brains when teaching out students.

Please refer to this video for more information on brain development:







References

Giedd, J. (1999). EDinformatics. Retrieved March 14, 2009, from The Teenage Brain-- Why Do Teenagers Think Different than Adults?: http://www.edinformatics.com/news/teenage_brains.htm

Jensen, F. E. (2005-2009). Children's Hospital Boston. Retrieved March 14, 2009, from Frances E. Jensen, MD, on the teen brain: http://www.childrenshospital.org/patientsfamilies/Site1393/mainpageS1393P316sublevel357.html

Lorain, P. (1997). National Education Association. Retrieved March 14, 2009, from Brain Development in Young Adolescents: http://www.nea.org/tools/16653.htm

Perry, B. D. (1996-2009). Scholastic. Retrieved March 14, 2009, from How the Brain Learns Best: http://teacher.scholastic.com/professional/bruceperry/brainlearns.htm

The National Assoication of Child Care Resources and referral Agencies. (2009). Child Care Aware. Retrieved March 14, 2009, from New Research on Brain Development Is Important for Parents: http://www.childcareaware.org/en/subscriptions/dailyparent/volume.php?id=1