With all the chemical changes going through the bodies of adolescents – chemical, physical and neurological, it’s not wonder they are in a constant state of confusion. It’s a difficult time for both children and parents – ask anyone who has ever had to experience it. The good news is, in a few years it will all be over, you hope! With all these changes though, it’s a wonder that any learning gets done. Would memory training help an teen’s brain?

The puberty years – between 10 and 16, are the second phase in brain development. Other than birth to 18 months, it is during this time the brain is producing a vast amount of neuro-connectors (or synapse). The brain is undergoing a complete overhaul, and during this time there will be a lot of signals within the brain that will be putting off sparks. The increase will taper off over the next few years as the brain undergoes a process of “pruning,” much like is done to trees in order to take out the weaker branches in order to strengthen the rest of the tree. This pruning process with make the brain a whole lot leaner and meaner, and fit for what lies ahead in adulthood.

It is during this time that research has found the area of the brain that is necessary for “executive functions” like making decisions, developing plans, organizing, setting priorities and controlling impulses is also growing and developing (the prefrontal cortex of the frontal lobe). Unfortunately, this is the slowest part of the brain to develop, so during this time there will be confusion and some problems in making choices. The physical and the mental of an adolescent are in direct conflict with their image of themselves as growing up and becoming mature.

The development of this area of the brain is extremely important for later functioning in the adult world. It is extremely important during this time that adolescents are given as much space as possible in order to solve their own problems – especially academically. The practice will strengthen the neural connections to the brain and allow the brain to develop and mature for more complex thinking down the road.

Physically adolescents have more energy, are full of ideas and curiosity, tend to be a bit disorganized and are extremely moody. Socially they are trying to find their place in the world, and sometimes they make the wrong choices as to friends or environment. It is a time when they are confused, and often friendships developed from preschool change, causing even more angst. They will distance themselves from their parents, and want greater independence, but that doesn’t mean they want their parents to disappear (although it may seem like it at times).

Adolescents are trying to figure things out for themselves, and they are learning by doing, and making mistakes. If they have good foundations instilled in them early on, like enjoying reading and being able to focus and concentrate on their studies, they will not stray too far from that foundation. At times it seems they will be distracted by outside influences, but as long as you guide them back to what is important – through good communications skills that don’t judge, they will be fine. A good foundation is always built on in order to get a solid structure.

Set limits and boundaries, which they will of course try to push to the limit. Remain strong, and communicate with them what your rules are and what to expect if they are not followed. Allow them to make mistakes, and assume the consequences for those mistakes. This is also a learning process, and you can only learn by experience.

While they continue to grow, and their frontal lobes continue to mature, there will be many times in a parent’s life when they want to throw up their hands. Puberty is not easy for child or parent, but in the end everyone comes through it.

The brain’s development has a lot to do with how an adolescent behaves. As a fan of memory training I also believe this is the perfect time to introduce them to memory techniques as their brain’s are developing.

This is Ron White, and I am a two-time USA Memory Champion, memory training expert and memory keynote speaker.






Lieutenant Peter Puget, the grain of the brain and modern society’s failure to understand adolescence, by John Abbott: http://www.21learn.org/site/archive/lieutenant-peter-puget-the-grain-of-the-brain-and-modern-societys-failure-to-understand-adolescence/

Adolescents video: http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/understanding-the-brain-teenagers.html

Park Tudor Middle School– How Adolescents Learn: http://www.parktudor.org/academics/learning-project/Pages/how-adolescents-preteens-learn.aspx