Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Dear Teacher

Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Dear Teacher

Article excerpt

As a teacher of teens, you are aware of the critical importance of empowering them with facts to make informed decisions that affect their lives.

The second article in this year's Heads Up series highlights a very. important brain process under way in teens--synaptic pruning--in which the brain becomes more efficient by reinforcing connections it uses and needs while also pruning connections it does not use.

Through scientific information, students will see that their choices today can help to shape and "wire" how their brains will operate as adults. They'll also see the risks that drugs pose during this important time in their lives.

I urge you to share this important article with your students.

Nora D. Volkow, M.D.

Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse


Lesson and Work Sheet:

The lesson below and the reproducible work sheet on the reverse side will help students understand how the network of neurons in the brain communicates through synapses to create, learn, and shape a skilled and experienced individual. Students will discover that they can have some control over how their brains develop.

Standards Alignment:

These Heads Up materials are Common Core-ready and are also aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Visit scholastic .com/headsup/standards for a complete standards chart.

Before-Reading Questions:

* What do you know about how the brain develops in children, teens, and adults? Do you think that there is anything you can do to affect your own brain development?

* What do you know about how drugs can affect the way a person's brain develops?

After-Reading Questions (factual responses in italics):

* What is synaptic pruning? (Synaptic pruning is the process by which synapses that are used repeatedly become strengthened and more efficient, while unused synapses die off. Synaptic pruning peaks in childhood and reaches its final stages during a person's mid-20s through 30s.)

* What can you do to help your brain improve its ability to learn skills and control emotions? (Avoid drugs, which alter the brain's ability to learn and maintain control of emotions, even into adulthood. …

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