The Limits of Neurology

It is wise to never take a stance on the limitations of science, since the argument will inevitably become outdated and sound ludicrous.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.

2 Responses to “The Limits of Neurology”

  1. Lauretta Peterson Says:

    I am disgusted with the idea that young adults today should remain kids in the eye of many but be able to vote, go to war and marry.It is not appropriate to have it both ways. The problems is that we do not have realistic consistant standards. Young adults did not dumb down. We spoil them and excuse them from early responsible behavior then expect them to be adult.Young people can be tought to be responsible adults lazy parents and lawmakers are at fault.

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