I recently presented a film for the charity GamCare, using VR to take someone on a tour of the brain regions involved in gambling. YouTuber and UK boxer Viddal popped in briefly for a quick interview about the impact of gambling on adolescent brains.
“The talk was inspirational for staff and students alike. The students enjoyed your informal yet informative style. You made difficult concepts easy to grasp. They especially liked how you applied these high level ideas to their everyday lives and studying. You were witty andmost importantly not in the slightest bit patronising.”
Male pigeons were getting all ruffed up, pirouetting like whirling dervishes, in the hope of taking the fancy of their target lady pigeon. Then my attention landed on the humans directly in front of me, and from my vantage point atop a council-provided public rowing machine, I observed courtship behaviours that were not dissimilar.
Adolescence is a time of trial and error, of the highest emotional highs and the lowest lows. By adulthood most of us have accrued enough experience to have an instinct on the right way to deal with most situations. But adults often forget that as children our instincts were usually very unreliable because, without enough time to develop extensive experience, instincts are driven primarily by the urge to experiment.
At the onset of puberty the grey matter reaches maximum thickness and that key process of maturation, neuronal pruning, begins in the adolescent brain. This process does not occur uniformly across the whole brain but instead starts at the back of the brain and gradually progresses towards the front of the brain over a period of several years.
Neuroplasticity – the ability of brains to adapt to specific demands of the environment in which a person interacts – is at an all time high in a child’s brain. It occurs via reinforcement of connections between some brain cells (neurons) and weakening those between others.