A Study Suggests that teenagers are hard wired to enjoy learning
We are constantly finding out new things about how our brains work and develop as we get older, and now it seems that young people may actually be encouraged to learn by how their own brains work – in other words they are hard wired to enjoy learning.
A new study has suggested that teenagers may be hard wired to enjoy learning new things and practising new skills, as parts of the brain which are not usually connected are joined in your teenage years to reward using the parts of the brain associated with memory.
Researchers at Columbia University in New York made a surprising discovery when they found that, for adolescents, the part of the brain which sends out a ‘reward signal’ for getting answers right or doing something enjoyable was actually linked to the part of the brain that governs memory. This link was found to be weaker in adults, which means that, for teens at least, the brain is actually rewarding memory with a feeling of self-satisfaction.
The link between the hippocampus and the striatum parts of the brain may be a way to encourage learning at a crucial time of life, as explained by Professor Daphna Shohamy, who conducted the research:
“What we can take from these results isn’t that teens necessarily have better memory, in general, but rather the way in which they remember is different. By connecting two things that aren’t intrinsically connected, the adolescent brain may be trying to build a richer understanding of its surroundings during an important stage in life. Broadly speaking, adolescence is a time when teens begin to develop their independence. What more could a brain need to do during this period than jump into learning overdrive?”
Some are even suggesting that this link between learning and pleasure makes teenagers more selfish or self-centred as they seek experiences to drive this memory-linked reward signal. We’re not so sure if that is exactly the case, and while the study is interesting, with just 41 adolescents and 31 adults taking part, it is not yet what we would consider conclusive.
However, it might help explain that good feeling you get when you get a question right in class or even while watching a quiz show on TV – it’s just your hippocampus reacting with your striatum!