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Best time to learn new skills may develop during teenage years

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Teenage years are the best time to learn and develop new skills.
Teenage years are the best time to learn and develop new skills. wikimedia commons
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London, Dec 24, 2017: While a person can never be old enough to learn a new skill, teenage years can make learning easier. It is because the brain reacts more responsively to receiving rewards during adolescence, finds a study. Teenage years have been known to be inextricably linked to alcohol abuse, reckless behaviour and poor choice in friends.

This is due in part to increased activity in the corpus striatum — a small area deeply hidden away inside the brain. However, the new study showed that this increased activity in the corpus striatum does not have only negative consequences. “The adolescent brain is very sensitive to feedback,” said Sabine Peters, Assistant Professor at the Leiden University in the Netherlands.

“That makes adolescence the ideal time to acquire and retain new information,” Peters added. For the study, published in Nature Communications, the team involved 300 subjects between the ages of 8 and 29 and took MRI scans of their brains, for over a period of five years.

In the MRI scanner, participants had to solve a memory game, while the researchers gave feedback on the participants’ performance. The results showed that adolescents responded keenly to educational feedback. If the adolescent received useful feedback, then you saw the corpus striatum being activated. This was not the case with less pertinent feedback, for example, if the test person already knew the answer, the researchers said.

“The stronger your brain recognises that difference, the better the performance in the learning task. Brain activation could even predict learning performance two years into the future,” Peters said. (IANS)

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Cannabis Use Has Lasting Effects on Cognitive Skills in Teenagers Than Alcohol

Moreover, these increased with cannabis use and also were long-lasting compared to alcohol

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While both alcohol and marijuana misuse are known to be associated with impairments in learning, memory, attention and decision-making, as well as with lower academic performance, a new study claimed that cannabis use has lasting effects on cognitive skills in teenagers than alcohol.

The findings, led by researchers at Universite de Montreal, showed cannabis affected cognitive functions such as perceptual reasoning, memory recall, working memory and inhibitory control.

Moreover, these increased with cannabis use and also were long-lasting compared to alcohol.

“Increases in cannabis use, but not alcohol consumption, showed additional concurrent and lagged effects on cognitive functions such as perceptual reasoning, memory recall, working memory and inhibitory control,” said Patricia Conrod, from the varsity.

“Of particular concern was the finding that cannabis use was associated with lasting effects on a measure of inhibitory control, which is a risk factor for other addictive behaviours, and might explain why early onset cannabis use is a risk factor for other addictions,” added Jean-Francois G. Morin, doctoral student at Montreal.

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Cannabis more ‘toxic’ to teenage brains than alcohol: Study. Pixabay

“Some of these effects are even more pronounced when consumption begins earlier in adolescence,” Morin added.

For the study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the team followed a sample of 3,826 Canadian high school students from 7th to 10th grade over a period of four years.

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In a context where policies and attitudes regarding substance use are being reconsidered, this research highlights the importance of protecting youth from the adverse effects of consumption through greater investment in drug-prevention programmes.

“While this study did not detect effects of teenage alcohol consumption on cognitive development, the neurotoxic effects may be observable in specific subgroups differentiated based on the level of consumption, gender or age,” Morin said. (IANS)