It is wise to never take a stance on the limitations of science, since the argument will inevitably become outdated and sound ludicrous.  But I have a hunch that there is some serious overstatement occurring presently in the field of adolescent neurology.  An Op-ed in the NYTimes by Mike Males provides the painful details:

Commentators brand teenagers as stupid, crazy, reckless, immature, irrational and even alien, then advocate tough curbs on youthful freedoms. Jay Giedd, who heads the brain imaging project at the National Institutes of Health, argues that the voting and drinking ages should be raised to 25. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, asks whether we should allow teenagers to be lifeguards or to enlist in the military. And state legislators around the country have proposed raising driving ages.  But the handful of experts and officials making these claims are themselves guilty of reckless overstatement. More responsible brain researchers — like Daniel Siegel of the University of California at Los Angeles and Kurt Fischer at Harvard’s Mind, Brain and Education Program — caution that scientists are just beginning to identify how systems in the brain work.

With regards to alcohol and adolescents (if that’s what we want to call 18-20 year-olds), there is neurological evidence that alcohol has more pronounced effects on younger brains than older brains in laboratory settings.  Where researchers are diverting from the trail of science, is when they begin to attribute real world behavioral differences strictly to neurological differences.  This may very well be the case, but the current research is presently incapable of assessing these behavioral connections.  Sadly, certain individuals in the field of neurology are potentially exaggerating the magnitude of adolescent/adult differences, and using the alleged behavioral evidence as an excuse to enact ever more stringent restrictions on young adults.

3 Responses to “Neurology”

  1. Ajax the Great Says:

    The lab research actually compared the short-term effects of alcohol on 25-29 year olds versus 21-24 year olds. And yes, differences were found. But that does not mean anything magical about turning 21. In fact, it kind of suggests the opposite.

  2. Edwin Bonilla Says:

    I think that Jay Giedd is using the field of neurology to justify his ageist view against young people. His views take away from science and go against how the world actually works. Young soldiers, as other soldiers, do things that are challenging every day. Young lifeguards make sure that people behave at pools. If most people wanted laws like Giedd or Yurgelun-Tood wanted, then I would not be allowed to vote or drink alcoohl and I drink responsibly when I do. The better scientists in neurology have a better understanding of their field. I agree with Ajax the Great on many things about the drinking age and the drinking age should be lowered to 18; with restrictions and other laws to make a stronger culture of responsibility about choices.

  3. Ajax the Great Says:

    Actually, the brain (including the prefrontal cortex) continues to develop well into the 30s and 40s, and possibly beyond that, but no sane person is arguing for raising the drinking age to 40 or 50. Thus, 21 is even more arbitrary than we initially thought.

    Let America be America again, and lower the drinking age to 18. If you’re old enough to go to war, you’re old enough to go to the bar. ‘Nuff said.