Adolescence is a time when physical, cognitive and emotional development surge to adult maturation, readying teens for adulthood. Cognitively, changes in the brain's physical structure and environmental stimulation and experiences impact the rate at and level to which development occurs. Teenagers' genetic makeup, history of intellectual stimulation and health habits all play a role in the maturation of thinking processes.
The human brain continues to develop into young adulthood. According to Deanna Kuhn of Colombia University, many changes that occur during adolescence improve the speed and capacity of processing information. Kuhn's research contends that brain development is directly connected to environmental experiences and continued learning. In early adolescence, the brain strengthens connections guided by the activities in which the teen is participating. Lack of cognitive development could be related to lack of exposure to brain-stimulating events. Kuhn says it is important to consider what types of experiences you want your teen's brain to have and to recognize the importance it has on cognitive development.
The Influence of Nutrition on Cognition
During the teenage years, kids have more control over their food choices than ever before. The eating habits they develop will carry over into adulthood and set the stage for the rest of their lives. Because the brain is in the final stages of development during adolescence, making healthy food choices is essential to optimal brain growth and cognitive development. According to the Biovision Foundation website, healthy eating is associated with improved overall cognition, especially memory and better school performance. Teens who make unhealthy food choices risk limiting future cognitive growth and reducing their ability to learn and work at maximum productivity.
Sometimes a lack of cognitive development in adolescents can be traced back to environmental experiences as a young child. Results from a recent study conducted by Martha Farah of the University of Pennsylvania show that intellectual stimulation at the age of four is key in predicting future brain development in several parts of the cortex and is directly related to cognitive performance in adolescence. Farah found that children who had optimal environmental experiences during their preschool years had a further developed lateral left temporal cortex, which is responsible for semantic memory, language comprehension and general knowledge about the world.
According to the American Psychological Association, learning disabilities occur when the brain struggles to interpret what one sees and hears. Learning disabilities are usually diagnosed during a child's early academic years, but persist throughout their lifetime. The APA points out that teens with learning disabilities may seem as though they have behavioral problems, and often changing hormones during puberty exacerbate the issues. If learning disabilities have not been addressed by the time a teen reaches middle or high school, the chances of school failure, problems with peer relationships and mental disorders, like anxiety or depression, greatly increase.
- American Psychological Association: A Reference for Professionals: Adolescent Development
- Perspectives on Psychological Science: Do Cognitive Changes Accompany Developments in the Adolescent Brain?
- The Guardian: Childhood Stimulation Key to Development, Study Finds
- Biovision Foundation: Nutrition in Adolescents
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