Richard Ord: Attack of the mutant teenage brains

According to science, the teenage brain acts differently to that of an adult's because it is undergoing intense development while being doused in soup of confused hormones.

Wednesday, 16th May 2018, 10:41 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th May 2018, 10:51 am
The legendary School Dinner Break McDonalds Run.

In technical parlance, the part of the limbic system known as the amygdala which controls intense experiences like excitement and fear takes off in teens while distancing itself from the prefrontal cortex which controls impulses and organises thought. In other words, if it sounds like a good idea to a teen well to heck with the consequences ... let’s do it!

The most obvious sign of this teen brain meltdown in our 14-year-old son occurred in the new year when he thought it would be a good idea to dispose of the left over Christmas Brussels sprouts, not by tipping them into the nearest compost bin, but by taking my cricket bat into the street and using it to belt the vegetables into neighbouring gardens!

As the brain develops, that prefrontal cortex grabs a hold of the limbic system to rein in those compulsive thoughts. There’s clearly still some distance to cover in our Isaac’s case.

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That said, he is working on his planning skills. The impulse to do naughty boy nonsense is still there, but he’s planning it better. Take his plan to waterbomb the neighbours. His text was concise. “Hi Elliot, next time you come over to mine bring the water balloons and we can hoy them off the neighbour’s windows.”

A near perfect plan, but with one tiny flaw. As his limbic system went into overdrive, his prefrontal cortex was kicked into touch. And he texted his brilliant plan to me by mistake. A schoolboy error and instant grounding!

It’s hard to stay angry with our Isaac. His impulses are naughty but not malicious.

His latest had me in stitches - The legendary School Dinner Break McDonald’s Run. For weeks he had been convinced it was possible to leave school at dinner time and get to a McDonald’s on the other side of the borough and back again before the bell sounded for afternoon lessons.

Given it is a 12 mile round trip involving two train journeys and the inevitable McDonald’s queues, only a supreme optimist or the seriously deluded would believe it could be done. And given to be late for afternoon lessons would have serious repercussions, it was clearly not worth the hassle.

Naturally, our Isaac went for it. He was 45 minutes late for school.

The teacher listened to Isaac’s excuses, involving missed buses, lost homework and stray dogs, but he’d been rumbled after boasting to everyone about his mission.

His hormone sozzled brain will eventually sort itself out to become the boring adult organ we all endure. Stuff it, there’s no hurry ... he should enjoy it while it lasts.