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The Daze of Wine and Roses

Ever wondered why teenagers seem so goofy? Because they are! And now, thanks to the White Lab Coat Guys (and NPR), we know why – “…. because the nerve cells that connect teenagers’ frontal lobes with the rest of their brains are sluggish. Teenagers don’t have as much of the fatty coating called myelin, or ‘white matter,’ that adults have in this area.

Think of it as insulation on an electrical wire. Nerves need myelin for nerve signals to flow freely. Spotty or thin myelin leads to inefficient communication between one part of the brain and another.”

At least, that’s what Neurologist Francis Jensen appears to have discovered, in no small part thanks to her own teenaged kids.

What’s it all mean? Not being a PhD wonk of any description, I feel fully competent to explain – Picture young chimpanzees frolicking in the jungle. That play activity isn’t just fun; it’s part of the brain’s wiring shtick. Primates require a long maturation process in order to be what we hope is an adult. In our own species, Homo erectus asphaltus, that maturation period is a tad longer than for our chimp cousins – something on the order of 35-50 years (depending on the amount of time spent Twittering sex pics of oneself to other idiots).

It thus stands to reason that until the neuronal connections are fully wired, young whippersnappers will inevitably engage in stupid and wrong-headed behavior to the detriment of themselves (and/or others). No wonder Hollywood releases a flood of seriously dumb movies in the summer. They have a captive audience of young chimps with nothing better to do than laugh at themselves.

Alas, those were the daze. What I remember of them.

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