Here’s the overview:
Over a dozen basic foundation thinking skills need to be wired during adolescence. Lots of repetitions are needed to establish skill circuits in the brain.
This happens the same way other basic skills (walking, talking, etc.) were wired earlier in childhood: (1) overproduction of brain cell connections to ensure there are enough to create the circuits for the skills, (2) enough repetitions to wire the circuits, followed by (3) pruning, which gradually eliminates unused connections, so the wired circuits can fire more efficiently.
Near the end of adolescence, all unused connections will finally be eliminated. Only the established circuits will remain.
Teens who exercise their PFC a lot will form more thinking skill circuits, meaning that fewer unused connections will be available for elimination.
Teens who neglect to exercise their PFC during adolescence will develop fewer thinking skill circuits, and a lot more unused connections will be eliminated.
Fewer circuits means less intellectual capacity.
The rate of pruning of connections varies from child to child. For some kids, pruning will be complete by age 16; others by the early 20s. The best strategy is to exercise and build thinking skills early and often.
So it really is a race against time. After all the unused connections are pruned away, no more brain connections are available to establish these basic skills. Building on a small foundation is still possible as an adult, but you can’t build a great edifice on a small foundation.
For some dramatic illustrations of the impact of neglecting to develop a brain area during the sensitive period of development, here are some stories.
This result is permanent. No do-overs. It’s how some teens become really smart adults. Or not.
For thousands of years, young people had to be fortunate to have the right kind of teachers and mentors and pursue the right kind of interests to develop fine minds. Obviously, only a small percentage of them got lucky.
Today, parents and young people can take luck out of the equation. Recent brain research has shown how this development takes place, and how teens can consciously and deliberately get involved in activities that build circuits in the PFC – without any special mind games.
The really good news: this life-changing result is possible regardless of gender, race or economic/cultural background.
While only the child can do the work, there’s much parents can do to help maximize this finite period of development.
All this is explained in much greater detail in my new book: How Your Teen Can Grow a Smarter Brain.
Also, you can download 4 FREE guides, including “The No. 1 Way to Nurture the Bond with Your Teen.”