Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Plastic Brains, Anyone?

Apparently, there is an upside to being single . . . indefinitely. But it's in terms of brain development, yawn. Eh, us spinsters will take what we can get. 
Laurence Steinberg, in "The Case for Delayed Adulthood," is of the opinion that growing up is not so great for the gray matter.  Marriage, education, and employment are more likely to be deferred amongst today's 20-year-olds, as opposed to the baby boomer generation. 
Studies reveal adolescence to be a period of heightened “plasticity” during which the brain is highly influenced by experience. As a result, adolescence is both a time of opportunity and vulnerability, a time when much is learned, especially about the social world, but when exposure to stressful events can be particularly devastating. As we leave adolescence, a series of neurochemical changes make the brain increasingly less plastic and less sensitive to environmental influences. Once we reach adulthood, existing brain circuits can be tweaked, but they can’t be overhauled.
While it sounds simply biological, it's not. It can be a chicken vs. egg thing—when the individual stops behaving like an adolescent, then the brain begins to "harden" from its "plastic" state. 
It’s important to be exposed to novelty and challenge when the brain is plastic not only because this is how we acquire and strengthen skills, but also because this is how the brain enhances its ability to profit from future enriching experiences.
With this in mind, the lengthy passage into adulthood that characterizes the early 20s for so many people today starts to look less regrettable. Indeed, those who can prolong adolescence actually have an advantage, as long as their environment gives them continued stimulation and increasing challenges.
Steinberg suggests higher education to stimulate the brain. He also states outright that marriage does not stimulate.
Alas, something similar is true of marriage. For many, after its initial novelty has worn off, marriage fosters a lifestyle that is more routine and predictable than being single does. Husbands and wives both report a sharp drop in marital satisfaction during the first few years after their wedding, in part because life becomes repetitive. A longer period of dating, with all the unpredictability and change that come with a cast of new partners, may be better for your brain than marriage. 
I would have gotten cocky about this article, except I live my life by routine. While he may call dating "stimulating", I find it more aggravating. Certainly not remotely comparable to a college course. 
What we do to keep our brains plastic . . .  


Mr. Cohen said...

Princess Lea, what does this quote remind you of:

Julia [Roberts] told reporters that not only did her separations from Lyle not hurt the marriage, they actually helped it by keeping her and Lyle in an ongoing state of bliss.

“It’s like we’re on a perpetual honeymoon,” she said a few months after the wedding, “especially when we spend 5 or 7 days apart. Because then it starts all over again.

He opens the door and I go gasp, ‘Oh my G_d!’

How many wives are lucky enough to say that every time their husband opens the door, their heart skips a beat?”

SOURCE: Julia: Her Life (chapter 25, page 204) by James Spada, year 2004 CE, St. Martin’s Press, www.stmartins.com, New York, ISBN 0-312-28565-5.

Princess Lea said...

It reminds me that Julia Roberts was married to Lyle for only two years.