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POP QUIZ: How well do you know your teen’s brain?

Understanding a teenager’s brain is as complicated as the cosmos. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, you’re face to face with unchartered territory.

But with the help of advancing technology, like the noninvasive fMRI, we learn more about this enigma every day. In fact, there’s so much new information being discovered that we thought we’d create a pop quiz to see if you can keep up.

Here are some of the newest revelations that break the standing myths about how adolescents’ brains work.

  1. TRUE OR FALSE? There is a link between obesity and academic achievement in teen girls.

ANSWER: True. According to a recent study of data from almost 6,000 children, girls who were obese at age 11 had lower academic achievement at ages 11, 13, and 16 years old compared to their healthy-weight peers. (The association was not as clear in boys.)


  1. TRUE OR FALSE? An 18-year-old boy’s IQ and cardiovascular fitness can determine his risk of early-onset dementia later.

ANSWER: True. Men who had poor cardiovascular fitness at age 18 were 2.5 times more likely to develop early-onset dementia later. Men with a lower IQ had four times the risk, and men who had a combination of both poor cardiovascular fitness and low IQ had seven times the risk.


  1. TRUE OR FALSE? Teens with dyslexia tend to reverse letters or read them upside down.

ANSWER: False. Dyslexia simply means “trouble with words” and has nothing to do with reading letters backwards or upside down. The truth is that 88 percent of learning-to-read difficulties are caused by weak phonemic awareness­—the cognitive ability to blend, segment and analyze sounds.


  1. TRUE OR FALSE? Teenagers are born with the IQ they will have throughout life.

ANSWER: False. Thanks to neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to build and adapt at any age, our mental abilities and IQ are never “set in stone.”


  1. TRUE OR FALSE? Teens’ brains are more likely to be greatly affected by neuron loss after a concussion than adults’ brains.

ANSWER: True. Because teenagers’ brains are still developing, even losing a small amount of brain cells can change the trajectory of the brain’s development.


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