Under the category entitled “I Suspected as Much,” scientists at the University of California, Davis, have discovered that what makes a teenagers brain unique is that some of the connections are missing.
Seriously? They had to conduct a study for this one? That stimulus package will pay for anything.
“When a child is born, their brain is not fully-formed, and over the first few years there’s a great proliferation of connections between cells,” said physiologist Ian Campbell of the University of California, Davis. “Over adolescence there is a pruning back of these connections. The brain decides which connections are important to keep, and which can be let go.”
Among the connections they lose are those that tell them to replace the toilet paper roll and the toothpaste cap, that more than 10 minutes’ notice is required for your parents to muster the $100 cash deposit for the senior trip and the time to tell your mother that “there might be a problem with the brakes” on your car is not when you are walking out the door to drive 90 miles in the rain to visit a friend at college.
This last is was not part of the study, but based on reliable anecdotal evidence by a trustworthy source (me).
It does disturb me that their brains decide which connections to keep and which to let go (around here it’s called ‘selective hearing,’ but – whatever). As a parent, I think I should have the right to decide which parts of the brain remain active.
For instance, when they were little, I had no trouble convincing the Heirs that sticking your hand in a lit fireplace or playing chicken with a tractor trailer is a really bad idea. They accepted my wisdom. I want that connection back. Very specifically, I’d like to reestablish the connection with the part of the brain that tells them that holding a jousting tournament with your bicycles and the barbecue rotisserie skewers will most likely end in injury.
The other day Heir 2 was heading out the door at 9 o’clock at night, obviously neglecting to tell us where he was going and for what purpose. So, being diligent parents, we asked, “Where are you going?”
“I’m going to score some crack and then pick up a couple hookers. Don’t wait up,” he said, putting on his coat.
So, frankly, I don’t know where to aim the ice pick, but if someone could point out the smartass section of the brain, I’d like to – er – ‘disconnect’ that little hive of neurological activity – permanently.
I am a bit skeptical, though. Apparently the results of a previous study showed that teenagers can’t multitask as well as adults can. Obviously they’ve never done field observations of a teenager doing homework, talking on the phone, and surfing the net all at one time. Meanwhile, I can’t balance the checkbook if the birds are singing too loudly.
And I totally disagree with the study that showed that the medial prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain allowing a teenager to feel guilt, is underused compared to adults. The study was obviously done by amateurs. Now I can show them how to make a teenager feel guilty; but, then I attended The Italian Mama School of Guilt Dispersal. I was valedictorian.
I hope, though, that the studies don’t end there.
There needs to be a study on the teenage brain’s tendency toward false visual perception, allowing him to mistake his bedroom floor for the laundry hamper, his mother for a maid and his father for an ATM. There needs to be a study on why the sound of a lawnmower or the sight of a full garbage can causes narcolepsy. Or what causes the early onset temporary Alzheimer’s disease causing him to forget to bring to school his math book, pen, binder and gym clothes, but not his iPod.
We really need to know more about the phenomenon that happens when two or more teenagers are gathered into a social group and their brains just spontaneously shut down, resulting in things being micro-waved that have to business being micro-waved or for their parents to come home to strange holes in the walls and family pets oddly restless.
I know, I know. Funding these days is hard to come by and, really, we should be spending for actual diseases like cancer or AIDS.
It’s not like adolescence is a disease or anything…