Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Frontal Lobe And The Plasticity of Youth


The emergence of functional magnetic resonance imaging has opened an unprecedented window into the mechanics of how the brain works by determining which functions are assigned to which locations and how different sections interconnect to accomplish tasks as simple as crossing the street (not so simple actually) or as complex as writing our blog (some might dispute this point but we'll choose to ignore them).

The technique lets the investigator see what's happening in various areas of the brain during a particular intellectual or emotional process, such as solving a math problem or recalling an angry thought. Such mapping allows for real time localization of an ever increasing variety of normal brain functions, mental disorders such as schizopherenia, bipolar disorder, psychopathy, and predisposition to drug addiction.

The frontal lobe participates in a wide variety of functions including language, judgement, impulse control, and sexual and social behavior. Patients afflicted with frontal lobe injury often demonstrate inattention, poor memory, disinhibiton, and lack of affect. It is also the last area of the brain to mature, and its late development explains much of the behavior that parents of adolescence find so bewildering. The young are the chief risk takers in most societies because they consistently underestimate the magnitude of the risks they take, and they lack the full capacity to appreciate the consequences of their actions. Combining such a deficit with peak physical powers makes for great athletes, criminals and soldiers. It may also explain their amazing capacity capacity for change, and why we should never give up on them


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