For several years I have been joking with my children that their impulsivity and bad decision-making is because their frontal lobe is not fully developed. Anytime they did something that perhaps was not so very wise, I would remind them of this. The fact is, this wasn’t really a joke at all!
Your prefrontal cortex is part of the frontal lobe of your brain. Your frontal lobe is responsible for all sorts of things like decision-making and planning, reasoning, personality, social skills, recognizing and regulating emotions, and morality. The prefrontal cortex is specifically responsible for decision-making, impulsivity, attention, and emotional regulation. This part of your brain does not fully develop until you are in your early twenties.
This slow development of the prefrontal cortex can cause children, teens, and even young adults to make all sorts of bad decisions. If you are a parent, you probably understand this quite well. Sleep deprivation and substance use make the problem even worse. Thus, it is very important to do things that nurture and develop the functioning of the frontal lobe. Essentially, you have to proactively train the brain!
Believe it or not, training the brain involves regular workouts. I’m not talking physical workout here but mental workouts. While regular physical activity is great for the brain, purposeful mental workouts are of utmost importance. If kids would start training their brains when they are young, this would help improve the functioning of their prefrontal cortex as they age. Kids aren’t the only ones who can see results from mental workouts though. Adults can keep their brains in shape too.
What workouts improve the fitness of the prefrontal cortex? Any activity where you have to evaluate alternatives, make decisions, or solve problems are helpful. Rather than sitting on the couch engaging in mind-numbing passive behaviors, you need to get out there and do some things that require you to think and to learn. In other words, always be learning. Be proactive. Be purposeful.
What are some ways to train the brain? Take interesting and challenging classes. Engage in social interactions. Play games that involve thinking and strategizing. Identify interesting problems and work to solve them. Build and create things. Play a sport. Read a book. It does not matter how young or old you are. You can improve the efficiency of your frontal lobe at any age! So what are you waiting for? Train your brain!