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How important is learning during adolescence?

Using your brain, particularly during adolescence, may help brain cells survive and could impact how the brain functions in adulthood. According to a published study in Frontiers in Neuroscience, Rutgers behavioral and systems neuroscientist, Tracey Shors, found that the brain cells in young rats that were successful at learning survived, while those that weren’t able to master tasks died quickly. You can think of this as a “survival of the fittest” for brain cells.

The study is important, Shors said, because it suggests that the massive proliferation of new brain cells early in life enables younger animals to learn quickly, so that they can leave the protectiveness of their mothers. They will then have enough brain cells to later face the dangers, challenges, and opportunities of adulthood.

“It’s not that learning makes more cells,” Shors said. “but it does keep alive the cells that are present at the time of the learning experience.” Since the process of producing new brain cells is similar in animals, including humans, Shors noted how important it was for adolescents to learn at optimal levels.

“What it has shown me, especially as an educator, is how difficult it is to achieve optimal learning for our students. You don’t want the material to be too easy to learn, nor do you want to make it so difficult that the student doesn’t learn and gives up,” Shors said.

So, what does this mean for the 12-year-old adolescent boy or girl? While scientists can’t measure individual brain cells in humans, Shors said this study, on the cellular level, provides a look at what is happening in the adolescent brain and provides a window into the amazing ability the brain has to reorganize itself and form new neutral connections at such a transformation time in our lives.

“Adolescents are trying to figure out who they are now, who they want to be when they grow up, and are in a learning environment all day long,” Shors said. “The brain has to have a lot of strength to respond to all those experiences.” It’s important to strike balance between challenging the brain to learn and allowing the brain time to rest and recharge. The learning that adolescents do now is very important and will impact how their brains function later in life.

Source: Robin Lally

How important do you think learning is for adolescents? Highly sensitive people usually love to learn, but just thinking of myself during my school days, I wasn’t the best student. I always felt out of place. After reading this article, I wonder if more could be done to facilitate learning for those who don’t perform as well in a classroom setting. What do you think? I’m interested in any thoughts or comments that you have.

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