It wasn’t me, it was my teenage brain

New research is helping pupils to learn why they feel and behave as they do, and how to cope with it.

Julia Harrington, headmistress at Queen Anne’s School, got the idea for the BrainCanDo project after attending lectures by the psychologist Anna Scarna, an expert on the teenage brain.  The aim is to get pupils to use the latest science about the teenage brain to control their moods, improve their memories and even win at games.

“My job is to help teenage girls understand what is going on in their heads. Their brains are going through a massive process of development, with neurons being regenerated and brain pathways strengthened, which is very exciting. But too many teens come away from that process feeling at odds, unable to function properly in the adult world.

The aim of BrainCanDo is to tell children how to use their knowledge about what is happening to their brains to deal with stress or improve their memory or handle their moods,” she says.

At its simplest, it means pointing out to pupils that it is part of normal development for teenagers to feel moody, depressed and anxious as their brain goes through its massive changes.

Teenagers can be told that talking about how they feel can calm such turbulent emotions — and the science shows how.

Emotions are in a very primal part of the brain. Speech is in a more sophisticated part and talking has been shown to calm emotions such as anxiety. That is why therapy works,” she says.

“We all remember that hellish time in adolescence when you feel you are the only one going through it. Whereas if you understand that it is a journey and you can choose how to react, you can process what is going on.”


Read more in The Sunday Times (£)

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