I was fortunate enough to attend the Professional Minds conference – Insights into Intelligence over the weekend, which got me thinking about how many changes occur in adolescence. From physical brain development to diet influence, it is interesting to consider what these changes mean for our adolescents:
- The brain prunes away 80% of original neurons before adolescence, making it more streamlined to perform certain functions and do away with unused functions.
- The pre-frontal cortex (frontal lobe) is fully mature at age 24, which means that teenagers are still learning to problem-solve, make decisions, test out new strategies, and monitor their efforts. They rely on adults to model practice, trial and error.
- The hyperthalamus is responsible for regulating the body in terms of hormones, temperature, sex drive, sleep, blood pressure, thirst and appetite. Increased interest in the arts (i.e., music, films, etc), media, gaming, violence and sex has been associated with the intention to maintain the primal Fight or Flight physical sensations of Neanderthal days.
- Diet plays a large role in adolescent development. Westerners don’t eat as many Omega 3 fats as our Eastern counterparts. Deficits in Omega 3 is known to result in mood swings, difficulties with concentration, fatigue and stress, poor memory and addiction in teenagers. Apart from Omega 3 supplements, foods like coconut oil, nuts and seeds, flaxseed oil, spinach are rich in Omega 3s.
- Research shows that meditation is one of the leading support strategies used to manage anxiety and depression in teens. Free meditation apps that have been adopted into daily practice by teens include Headspace and Calm.