What makes the teenage brain different?

Think about how your brain processed things differently at age 7, age 11, age 14 and age 17. Try on 22 and then a subsequent age- perhaps where you are now. What was different; what stayed the same? Listening to a podcast with WHYY Public Radio with Dr. Dan Siegel on ‘The teenage brain, what’s going on in there . . .’ he explains that there are actual neuro-psychiatric changes going on in the brain instead of just the ‘raging hormones’ that used to be attributed as the primary cause of the emotional and physical changes that take place in adolescence. Siegel has a book titled, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, an Inside-Out Guide to The Emerging Adolescent Mind, Ages 12-24. A neuro-psychiatrist, Siegel draws on interpersonal neurobiology and the latest research to provide parents, teens and educators with ways to understand one another and build stronger connections.

Dr. Daniel Siegel, MD is a clinical professor of psychiatry on the faculty of the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development at UCLA School of Medicine. He is also Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute and founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center. His claim to fame is interpersonal neurobiology which explores the interdisciplinary connections and patterns across fields such as anthropology, biology, development, neuroscience, mental health, psychology, psychiatry and sociology. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatry Association- among other notable accomplishments. Dr. Siegel has written several books.

His Mindsight approach is a useful way to understand how the brain works in touch with one’s feelings and integrate the left and right sides of the brain to help create secure attachments and form the foundational basis of well being and teach greater empathy. It’s essentially learning how one’s brain works and seeing into how the brains of others work. We often operate automatically without evaluating how our minds work. You are not your feelings. It is very different to say, ‘I am sad,’ versus, ‘I feel sad’ which separates one’s self from one’s feelings and gives a person greater control and distance to solve the problem. ‘The focusing skills that are part of mindsight make it possible to see what is inside, to accept it, and in the accepting to let it go, and finally, to transform it,’ according to the site.

In one of his interview examples, he says it’s easy to manage a kid’s behavior instead of teaching them the skills which help to give them insight and empathy to create and maintain friendships and learn how to connect with others. One way to use brain science is to use stories to name the inner experience of what’s going on to make sense of it all and achieve greater resilience.

Another key concept is integration. “Integration is at the heart of both interpersonal neurobiology and Dr. Siegel’s mindsight approach. Defined as the linkage of differentiated components of a system, integration is viewed as the core mechanism in the cultivation of well-being . . . In an individual’s mind, integration involves the linkage of separate aspects of mental processes to each other, such as thought with feeling, bodily sensation with logic. . . A result of integration is kindness, resilience, and health. Terms for these three forms of integration are a coherent mind, empathic relationships, and an integrated brain.” The body and brain are often viewed as separate ‘things’ when in fact humans are an integrated stream of interconnected experience- in motion.

Dr. Daniel Siegel has written on trauma, parenting, and many other clinical textbooks. [Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body, and Brain -W.W. Norton 2003.] The description reads, “The contributors emphasize the ways in which the social environment, including relationships of childhood, adulthood, and the treatment milieu change aspects of the structure of the brain and ultimately alter the mind.” Throughout childhood, how we process feelings and form attachments affect not only emotion and behavior but memory, one’s life story and future well-being.

You can view his video clips on parenting here: http://www.drdansiegel.com/resources/video_clips/parenting/
There are some great interviews, podcasts, videos, and articles on his methodology and work:
[photo credit: Wikimedia Commons licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Author: chickensaresocute, May 2013]


About Communications

Communications and Social Media @ Sequel-Pomegranate Health Systems
This entry was posted in adolescent psychiatry, behavioral health, mental health, pediatric psychiatry, psychiatric care. Bookmark the permalink.

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