Having transcendent thoughts contributes to the maturation of the brain

Having transcendent thoughts contributes to the maturation of the brain

Adolescence is a period of great physical and mental changes. The brain is undergoing major reorganizations at some synapses, the connections that neurons make to communicate with each other. They must leave behind the way children think and act and gradually acquire the ways of youth and adulthood. These changes include the removal of several synapses, a process called synapses Neurological presentationAnd the acquisition of many new products.

It has long been known that the environment in which they live, the stimuli provided to them, the experiences they have, the ideas they have, the trust given to them, and the emotional support they receive, have a significant impact on the development and maturation of a child. The teenage brain. And therefore what they will be like in the future. That is, in how they perceive themselves and how they deal with others.

Educational neuropsychologist Rebecca J.M. Gottlieb and her colleagues at the University of California and Southern California in Los Angeles have added a new element that contributes positively to the maturation of the adolescent brain: the presence of transcendent thoughts. As published in Scientific reportsThis increases and strengthens synapses between two areas of the brain that are essential for setting and maintaining life goals and for the ability to think internally: the executive control networks in the prefrontal cortex and the so-called default neural network.

Transcendental thinking, as these researchers define it, is the practice of looking beyond the immediate context of any event or situation to understand the deeper meanings and implications it may have. More generally, it involves thinking about concepts or ideas that go beyond everyday aspects. It focuses on profound or philosophical questions such as the nature of existence, the purpose of life, consciousness or ethics, among others. It can lead to deep reflection on oneself and the place we occupy in our environment, which are precisely two aspects of adolescence.

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The experiment conducted by Gottlieb and his collaborators is of the longitudinal type. In other words, the analysis covered a large number of people over several years of their lives. It included psychological tests and brain images obtained through functional magnetic resonance imaging. Briefly, they conducted individual interviews with 65 adolescents aged 14 to 18 who were in secondary education. They were told true stories about teenagers from other parts of the world, and were asked how these stories made them feel. They then obtained images of his brain using functional MRI.

Two years later, they did another functional MRI, and two more in the next three years. The data obtained allowed them to see how the brain connectivity of these volunteers changed over a period of five years, until the end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood, depending on the condition. They noted that although all of them had some sort of transcendental thinking when evaluating the stories, the teens who discussed more internally about meaning and content and learned more had increased coordination between two very specific areas of the brain. They are the executive control networks of the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in generating reflective thoughts, planning, logical decision making, and emotional management, and the default neural network, which is involved in the ability to have internal thoughts and think about things. Himself, remembering the past and thinking about the future. It is also associated with introspection, self-reflection and so-called theory of mind, which is the ability to understand the thoughts and emotions of others and ourselves.

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In other words, the promotion of transcendental ideas during adolescence favors the development of the individual's personal identity, defining and maintaining his own life goals and in relation to the environment in which the individual lives. In addition, these researchers also saw that it is associated with a stronger subjective sense of well-being and that it reduces the incidence of potential psychological disorders later in life. Although this work does not analyze why some early adolescents are more capable of having transcendent thoughts than others, these findings have very important implications for curriculum design and classroom experiences during “secondary education.” Favoring and generating discussion and debate situations in which transcendental thinking is promoted, looking for personal and social implications of what is learned that go beyond the learning itself, and improving self-perception and the ability to generate one's own life goals in the course. from life. As well as self-perception of well-being.

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