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What were you thinking? Leaning about teens through scientific research

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When I look back on when I was in high school, I always think of myself as having been one of the “good” kids. I got great grades, was involved in after school clubs, and never had more than a couple of detentions. Okay, maybe a few detentions… but if you ask any parent, sibling, teacher, or child care professional, we all know now that no one is perfect. Some scientists today are trying to figure out why this is. While you can find all kinds of information on raising infants and young children- on television shows, or in countless books and magazines- not much information exists about the development of adolescents. Dr. Marie Banich helps to shed some light in this subject at Beet Street’s Science Café tonight.

Dr. Banich will discuss the new evidence from neurological studies that maturation of the brain extends much longer through adolescence than scientists previously thought. This pattern of brain development helps to explain the types of decisions and actions taken by teens. Dr. Banich and her colleagues have collected their own data, and their studies provide a clearer picture of what types of thinking abilities adolescents do and don’t have, and the age at which these abilities truly start to reach adult levels. This work gives insights into why teenagers seem to “know” what to do, but yet sometimes don’t seem to follow through on that knowledge. After this talk, you might think of the plea to “apply yourself,” so often given to teenagers, in an entirely different way.

Marie Banich, Ph.D., is a professor of Psychology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she also serves as director of the Institute of Cognitive Science, a multi-disciplinary institute dedicated to exploring the science of the mind. She also holds an appointment in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado at Denver. Her research specializes in using brain imaging techniques to understand the neural systems that allow us to direct our attention and our actions so that we can prioritize, organize, and target our behavior in a goal-oriented manner. Her research helps in understanding individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and adolescents with severe substance and conduct problems, while at the same time helping to explain the development and mental maturation of adolescents. 

We can never know what exactly is going on in someone else’s head. However, we can try to be more understanding of another’s ability to think in certain ways. Dr. Banich’s presentation is likely to be an interesting discussion about how teens relate to the world around them, and how we ultimately relate to each other.

Beet Street’s Science Café  joins the international community of scientists and interested citizens who meet monthly for informal discussions of lively and interesting issues in contemporary science.  We will be meeting at Dempsey’s on 160 W. Oak St. tonight, October 14 at 5:30pm for no-host drinks and food. Dr. Banich’s presentation will begin at 6:00pm. We hope to see you there!