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Understanding the developing brain

Lifeways forum focuses on adolescent behavior risks

Jason Ferguson
Published: Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Custer Mayor Gary Lipp, center, was among the approximately 40 people who attended the “Building Bridges with Youth to Live Safe and Drug-Free Lives” seminar April 30 at Crazy Horse Memorial. Those in attendance learned about how addictions affect a developing brain and how to steer adolescents toward healthier choices.

 

The teen brain is like a lump of clay—moldable and impressionable. It’s shaped by every experience during those formative years and is particularly vulnerable during that time, especially to the formation of bad habits.
Those were the words spoken by Steven Dewey of the Brookhaven National Laboratory and Aaron White of Duke University, two researchers who have done voluminous work on studying the developing adolescent brain. 
Dewey and White were two experts featured on the video “Addiction and the Human Brain,” which was played as part of Lifeways’ “Building Bridges with Youth to Live Safe and Drug-Free Lives” seminar that was presented April 30 at Crazy Horse Memorial. Around 40 people attended the seminar.
Larry Luitjens, a member of the Lifeways board of directors, welcomed those in attendance and introduced Paula Long Fox, Lifeways advisor, who told the audience a proactive movement is needed to promote a healthy brain, speaking of “Project Success,” which teaches students how to cope in healthy ways instead of resorting to drugs and alcohol.
The video featured students telling how drugs made them feel and it explained how drugs raise dopamine levels in the brain, which triggers the “reward pathway” — the area in the brain people equate to good feelings. The reward pathway is vital to life and provides satisfaction. Different drugs, from caffeine to cocaine, provide different degrees of satisfaction in the reward pathway and trick the mind into thinking that the person has done something good when it hasn’t. 
In studies with rats, the rats were trained to get both food and cocaine and eventually were forced to choose between the two. The rats chose the cocaine and used it until they died.

The teen brain is like a lump of clay—moldable and impressionable. It’s shaped by every experience during those formative years and is particularly vulnerable during that time, especially to the formation of bad habits.

Those were the words spoken by Steven Dewey of the Brookhaven National Laboratory and Aaron White of Duke University, two researchers who have done voluminous work on studying the developing adolescent brain. 

Dewey and White were two experts featured on the video “Addiction and the Human Brain,” which was played as part of Lifeways’ “Building Bridges with Youth to Live Safe and Drug-Free Lives” seminar that was presented April 30 at Crazy Horse Memorial. Around 40 people attended the seminar.

Larry Luitjens, a member of the Lifeways board of directors, welcomed those in attendance and introduced Paula Long Fox, Lifeways advisor, who told the audience a proactive movement is needed to promote a healthy brain, speaking of “Project Success,” which teaches students how to cope in healthy ways instead of resorting to drugs and alcohol.

The video featured students telling how drugs made them feel and it explained how drugs raise dopamine levels in the brain, which triggers the “reward pathway” — the area in the brain people equate to good feelings. The reward pathway is vital to life and provides satisfaction. Different drugs, from caffeine to cocaine, provide different degrees of satisfaction in the reward pathway and trick the mind into thinking that the person has done something good when it hasn’t. 

In studies with rats, the rats were trained to get both food and cocaine and eventually were forced to choose between the two. The rats chose the cocaine and used it until they died.

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