After spending a wonderful winter break at home in sunny California and a jolly Jan Plan learning about, playing, and dancing to African music, I am uber excited that the Spring semester of my junior year has finally commenced! Starting this new semester precipitated mixed feelings such as stress and anxiety because I feel like I should already know what I am doing after Colby (but I still have plenty of time, right Melissa?!?!) and nostalgia because I wish I could go back to freshman year again, when the workload was reasonable and I had time to spare for naps.
At one point during this emotional rollercoaster ride, I decided to productively procrastinate on work by watching some TEDTalks. I found the TEDTalk presented by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in University College London, on the neural basis of adolescent behavior especially entertaining (Sarah-Jayne Blakemore: The mysterious workings of the adolescent brain). Blakemore explained that we have better knowledge on brain development today compared to approximately 15 years ago. Thanks to advances in technology, we now know that the bulk of brain development does not occur during the early years of life but throughout early adolescence and into adulthood.
Acquisition of such knowledge allowed neuroscientists, such as Blakemore, to explain adolescent behavior. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is a brain region highly involved in higher-cognitive tasks—for example, decision-making, planning, and self-awareness. The majority of PFC development occurs during early adolescence: PFC grey matter volume increases from childhood and reaches its climax in the adolescent years. Therefore, adolescent behaviors such as impulsivity and lack of self-awareness are attributable to an underdeveloped PFC.
This TEDTalk allayed my stress and anxiety because it reminded me that attaining a goal is a process, not an event, much like brain development. This means it’s alright if I am still uncertain about my plans after Colby, and that time and my experiences between now and then are catalysts for my future profound attainment (or maybe my PFC is still developing, which explains my indecision and undetermined future plans . . .)