Monday, November 16, 2015

To Be or Not to Be

Or, rather, as Hamlet eventually admits, to do, or not to do.

It turns out that these decisions are mediated by different neurotransmitters, and that the inhibitory ("not to do") processing i the brain develops slowly through adolescence.

Yet another reason why teenagers are batshit crazy.

A popular instrument used by researchers to test inhibition is the Go/ No-Go task in which subjects are told to press a button (the “Go” response) when a certain letter or picture appears, and not to press it (the “No-Go” response) when the letter X appears. Several studies have shown that children and adolescents generally have the same accuracy, but the reaction times, the speed at which a subject successfully inhibits a response, dramatically decrease with age in subjects age eight to twenty. In other words, it takes longer for adolescents to figure out when not to do something.

Jensen, Frances E.; Nutt, Amy Ellis (2015-01-06). The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults (p. 55). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Why so? Because the teenage brain is primed to learn. Synaptogenesis, creation of new synapses, far outruns deletions of old ones, and that means excitation outruns inhibition at the neural level - but not only the neural level.