You say dumb, I say pre-frontal cortex

A couple of years ago I did some professional development work around brain-based teaching.  One of the things I learned about adolescents is that their pre-frontal cortex, or the part of their brain responsible for long term planning and decision making, is still developing.  Talk about an “ah ha” moment.

Today, on a field trip, I watched a student run straight through a foot-deep puddle.  “I didn’t think it would be so deep,” he reflected while staring down at his drenched pants. “Don’t worry, ” I told him.  “Your pre-frontal cortex is still developing.”  Not really.  I mostly just shook my head and gave him that wide-eyed teacher stare.

The lack of development in the pre-frontal cortex is why, when I assign a book project and give the students three weeks to do it, so many of them get this gleam in their eye.  Great, they’re thinking, I don’t have to worry about this for three more weeks!

This relates to writing YA because I find that I read a lot of posts about what adults think teenagers would or wouldn’t do.  It’s important to remember that most teenagers have a brain that is different from our adult brains.  Things that make perfect sense to adults, do not necessarily compute in the world of a younger person.  Adolescents often make decisions based on their emotions; more specifically the emotional state they’re in the moment a decision is required.

Sometimes the results are heroic, amazing, tragic, disastrous.

Sometimes your pants get wet.

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2 thoughts on “You say dumb, I say pre-frontal cortex

  1. I think it’s simple enough to say that boys have an instinctive, subconscious attraction to puddles, and it doesn’t necessarily go away in adulthood! Our pre-frontal cortex is still developing even as an adult, as we strive to learn to respond and cope with new experiences. I find it funny that adults are always trying to ‘teach’ kids to share and be patient, etc., yet as we age we find that many adults cannot share and don’t have patience (another important role of the pre-frontal cortex). Great post Sashi.

  2. Thanks Jake. I read somewhere this really funny adaptation of sharing to the adult world. (I think it was in Brain Child Magazine). It was something along the lines of, “Hey Mrs. Jones can I share your Mercedes? No? But I asked nicely and it’s my turn!”

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