What you should know about how your brain works: no, you are not crazy.

And despite what your parents say, you shouldn’t necessarily have “known better.” But for what it’s worth, there are some things you should know about how your brain is working, and how you can put it to the best use.

Exuberance and Pruning

First of all, your brain is changing. The brain you were born with isn’t the one you have now, and it won’t be the one you have twenty years from now. There are two main ways that your brain changes over time: growing, or exuberance, and pruning. The majority of these two changes happen in phases: a period of growth is followed by a period of pruning.

The growth phases allow for the most learning, particularly learning new skills. As you could guess, the brain grows the most during infancy, when EVERYTHING is new. But there is a second growth phase right around adolescence. Right now, you can pick up new skills really easily, and even if your grades don’t show it, your brain is incredibly smart.

But too much growth would lead to overload, like installing too many programs on your computer makes it run slowly. That’s what pruning is for. Pruning organizes your brain so the information and skills you need the most are easy to reach, and anything you don’t need filed away. Your brain becomes more efficient. That doesn’t mean you can’t keep learning, but as time goes on, it will become harder. (It explains why my mom just can’t seem to learn to use the DVD player, no matter how many times we tell her.)

So what?

What does all this mean for you? It means that you have to take charge of the things that influence your brain. Smoking, for example, is a really bad idea in your teen years. Your brain learns to depend on it, which is one reason it is extra addictive to teenagers. Same goes for drinking. In addition, a recent study found that alcohol can damage your memory, especially when it is consumed heavily during adolescence (The Primal Teen, 173-179).

So choose to shape your brain to your advantage. Now is the perfect time to learn languages, sports, musical instruments, and many other skills. Learn a variety of skills and spend time perfecting what interests you most. It is the best gift you can give your brain!

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