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The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction

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This is a fun, “TED” style workshop that uses humorous pictures rather than text to show how the teen brain is still developing and how its incomplete development determines the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of teens.

While the workshop covers technical subjects such neuroanatomy and neurodevelopment, it does so in a clear, non-technical fashion to make the material accessible to everyone, not just psychiatrists and psychologists.

Participants often feel afterwards that they “get” teenagers and feel more comfortable working with them both at home and in professional settings.

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The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction

  1. 1. The Teen Brain – Or Why Adolescents are not Adults… Scott Carroll, MD Founder, Ayni Neuroscience Institute www.scottcarrollmd,com
  2. 2. The Teen Brain…
  3. 3. Brain Anatomy and Function
  4. 4. Brain Anatomy – Limbic System
  5. 5. Neurons and Axons
  6. 6. Gray Matter vs. White Matter
  7. 7. White Matter Tracks
  8. 8. White Matter Tracks – Frontal View
  9. 9. Piaget – Cognitive Development
  10. 10. Neurons – Early Development
  11. 11. Neurons – Changes with Puberty • Between 7 and 11 massive increase in connections occur • Intense pruning of connections occur between 12 and 14 • At 15 pruning slows and myelination of the long white matter tracks begin
  12. 12. Myelinated versus Unmyelinated
  13. 13. Local vs. Optimal Processing
  14. 14. Myelination – Last Phase of Growth • Most myelination occurs between 18 and 24 years old • The frontal lobes are the last area to myelinate • Judgment, emotional stability and impulse control become possible around 25yo (car insurance)
  15. 15. Psychosocial Development • Eric Erikson described 8 stages of development • Identity versus Role Diffusion - 12 to early 20’s • Teens shift between different roles, eventually settling on clear identity or search endlessly
  16. 16. Biopsychosocial Development • Increased peer focus may do anything to be different from parents and accepted by peers • Drive for independence flip between being distant and rejecting versus being childlike and needy
  17. 17. What Does This All Mean? • Teens frequently have “black/white” or “all or nothing” thinking, which misses complexity and pitfalls of a situation, problem or solution • Teens can be very rational when calm or thinking hypothetically, but under stress become confused and overwhelmed by emotions and impulses • Under stress their mental processes can regress to “child-like” or even “preschool” thought patterns, such as “magical thinking” or even fantasy.
  18. 18. Common Situations with Teens • They often have (unrealistic) expectations of life or believe they are (magically) protected from danger • They may (magically) deny a problem exists and avoid help, because “I just wanted to pretend …” • Overwhelmed teens do have a back up plan and go to a trusted adult and say, “Just tell me what to do!”
  19. 19. Techniques for Stressed Teens • Slow down and use simple, concrete examples • Be neutral, non-reactive and respectful of autonomy • Try playing “Colombo” • Try visualization or guided imagery
  20. 20. Follow Dr. Scott on:  Twitter @ScottCarrollMD  Facebook at Scott Carroll, MD  And soon at www.scottcarrollmd.com

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