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Adolescent Brain Is A Critical Growth Time For Memory

First Posted: Sep 23, 2015 05:14 PM EDT
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Adolescence is a critical time when the brain is growing, changing and continuously developing. That's why it's so important that outside factors in no way interrupt this process, including things like social stress, memory formation and/or drug use.

New findings published in the journal Cell Press examine how the adolescent brain is particularly sensitive during this time and how the aforementioned factors can disrupt or damage its growth process.

"Conclusively proving that adolescent sensitive periods exist will require studies comparing children, adolescents, and adults and will need to take into account individual differences in adolescent development," Delia Fuhrmann, a PhD student in UCL's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience Developmental Group, said in a news release. "Adolescents are much more likely than children to choose their own environments and choose what they want to experience."

The human brain is continuously changing due to its responsinveness to certain outside factors. However, during adolescence, it's more sensitive as the organ's frequently exposed to new and different stimulis. A great example seen in the earlier stages of life might be how infants experience the processing of visual input and language for the first time--something that's critical for everyday function if humans hope to live independently. And during adolescence, above other periods, researchers believe this is the period when memories are beginning to take shape. 

In this recent study, the study authors explored previous research indicating that both social stress and social exclusion hold a disproportionate impact during this critical period of growth. Furthermore, they also found that adolescence may be a vulnerable period from some negative experiences, in addition to forming abilities for more complex, self-organized working memory.

"Adolescents are slower to forget frightening or negative memories," added Fuhrmann. "This might mean that some treatments for anxiety disorders, which are based on controlled exposure to whatever a patient is afraid of, might be less effective in adolescents and alternative treatments might be needed."

Staying away from drugs and alcohol is also critical for the developing brain. This and other studies reveal that drug use during this period can not only harm the brain, but that the adolescent brain shows an increased sensitivity to drugs. 

Eating healthy, exercise and learning can help the brain to grow and develop properly. For more help, talk with your doctor. 

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