Tuesday – Science Focus: Daniel Siegal, M.D.

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Science Focus: Daniel Siegel, M.D.

By Joe

            As the blog is now mine (mine, mine, I say!), and as I know little to nothing about nutrition (except that Funions are technically not a vegetable) Tuesday’s topic will be the exploration of new research, researchers, and perhaps, weird science facts. Test-Tube Tuesday? Tori will still be a common guest blogger on nutrition, so don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Any-who… This week I’d like to talk briefly about a cutting edge neuropsychiatrist, Daniel Siegel, M.D. Dr. Siegel recently spoke in Boulder—a lecture to which my wife went while forgetting to invite me – just saying— and had some very interesting and exciting points to make about the adolescent brain. Dr. Siegel has written quite a few books and countless articles on the subject, any of which are well worth the read, so I will only briefly touch on one of his points: the adolescent brain as both a work in progress and a place of amazing potential.

Often adolescents are treated as lesser or half-cooked adults. I had a problem with that analogy when I was an adolescent and I have a problem with it now. When I was that age I felt, well, more alive, more vivacious, more energetic, more creative—in short, I felt more passionate and optimistic. I couldn’t understand a lot of things about the adult world or why adults had let it become the way it is—questions I still don’t have answers to, even though I’m now an, um, adult. Siegel does an excellent job of breaking it down for us with his ESSENCE acronym. I’m no expert in this field, but I’ll try to sum the points up as best I can.

ES: Emotional Sparkspark

Newsflash, adolescents make a lot of their decisions emotionally. This can make them somewhat unpleasant when the moods are in the sad/angry neck of the woods, but it encourages them to get out in the world. Also, in my experience, there’s nothing that can give me more energy than a happy and excited adolescent. Their energy is transferable and no, I’m not a vampire.

SE: Social Engagement

friendsAnother newsflash: kids are social creatures. While this does make them more susceptible to peer-pressure, it also gets them ready to deal with the social network that is life. I know that the friendships I made during adolescence and young adulthood have remained some of the strongest I’ve ever made as well as some of the most emotionally honest.          

 

N: Novelty

            New experiences and ways of thinking are rewarded in adolescence by the release of dopamine, which can lead to riskier behavior, but also quite literally rewards being entertaining and adventurous. It is important to get used to new things if a child is to step into the adult world.

            CE: Creative Exploration:

            This is perhaps the biggest one for me personally. During adolescence, kids are some of the most open and creative thatcreative lightbulb they will ever be for their entire lives. I see it every day and it, like their energy, is easily transferable. I get more creative the more time I spend with them. This creativity makes them more adaptable, something of utmost importance in the first few years away from home. The downside is that they can often be disillusioned and jaded by their new view of the reality of the world. I would argue that this isn’t really a downside; they are often right.

The coolest thing about Siegel’s work here is that these very same aspects are important in adult brains as well. Keeping an active, growing, and healthy mind is a concern for many if not all adults (especially as the instances of missing keys and misplaced remotes begin to grow.) So if you want to have a healthier mind, try acting more like a teenager! And cut them a break now and again; what they are going through is necessary to their development and, I would argue, necessary for human kind.

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