Leanne Hall

The Gen Y brain

The human brain is a complex organ. Weighing less than 2 kg, it contains over 11 billion intricately organised and interconnected neurons. Until recent years, it was thought that the brain reached its maturity during adolescence. We now know that in fact the brain continues to develop throughout early adulthood, at least into our mid-twenties. The implications of this for Gen Y are extremely significant. After all, if their brains are still developing, do Gen Ys even have the capacity to think and behave in certain ways?

Our brain overproduces networks when we are children. Throughout adolescence, these networks are pruned as a way of consolidating neural pathways and increasing brain efficiency. Think of a garden. Before spring, we pull out weeds and dead growth to make way for the new plants. These new plants then grow even stronger, forming a more mature and robust garden. Of course the plants that grow are the ones that are fertilised and nurtured in much the same way as our neural pathways. Environmental factors play a significant role in helping to determine which networks we fertilise — and which we prune.

Generational changes within the environment have direct effects on neural pruning. Nowadays, developing brains are multitasking more than ever. As a result, these neural pathways are consolidated and ‘fertilised’, perhaps ...

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