When our children are infants and toddlers, it’s easy to see how quickly their brains are developing and changing. Within only a year or two, they grow from utter dependence on their parents to being able to walk, talk, feed themselves, and explore their world with all their senses.
Appropriately, great emphasis is put on encouraging brain stimulation during these early years.
Once kids are past this ultra-intensive time of brain development, neural growth isn’t as quick and obvious. Yes, they’re still learning. But it doesn’t look like it’s at lightning speeds.
This can seem especially true during adolescence.
Ongoing Brain Development in Adolescence
Often, a teen’s physical growth is more obvious than their cognitive and emotional growth. But the brain is still undertaking important growth and development in adolescence.
One of the crucial tasks of brain development during adolescence is to grow and develop the part of the brain needed for executive functioning. This is called the prefrontal cortex. Maturation of executive functioning is a hallmark of adulthood. Some of the markers of adolescence, such as moodiness and impulsivity, occur precisely because the executive functioning center is still maturing.
In a recent study, researchers were able to track cognitive maturation in youth from ages 8-23 years. They were specifically interested in the pathways contained in the brain’s white matter. The white matter is full of pathways that help regions of the brain work together. They wanted to know what structures in the brain were important for executive functioning.
Examining study results, researchers started to understand possible reasons for the lengthy developmental span in humans. It takes time for the white matter in the brain to form all the necessary connections. The prefrontal cortex likewise requires time to put down and build the pathways that support higher thinking. This higher thinking, or executive functioning, is what separates us from other primates.
Supporting Peak Performance in the Teen Years
Peak performance is a popular topic for adult achievement. But the concept is also important for youths. Adults often strive for peak performance in athletics, music, foreign language skills, and professional settings. They strive to be at the absolute top of their game or abilities.
However, the entire general concept of peak performance is applicable to adolescents—whatever their interests, career goals, or aptitude. Supporting peak performance helps with school success, relationships, and future career success, no matter if they want to be a mechanic or a physician.
It makes sense to pursue such training during the years when the brain is still rapidly growing. Of course, the neural connections in the brain can be changed and strengthened throughout the lifespan, but it can happen more quickly and easily before adulthood. This is because the brain has great neuroplasticity and greater ease of change during those years.
Peak performance training helps the executive functioning center mature more completely. The benefits are multidimensional. It supports greater self-control, mood regulation, and decision making. Of course, executive functioning is also needed for the complex thought processes required in human life. When teens have these skills, it carries over to their academic success.
The Tomatis Method and Executive Functioning
In my office, I use a specialized approach to help individuals address and improve cognitive skills. The Tomatis method is a treatment program that can be used for a variety of goals. Because the auditory system is so closely integrated with the other senses and the brain as a whole, this listening program is the perfect tool for boosting development and maturation in the brain. Its effectiveness at increasing peak performance is well-documented.
Over the course of my career, I have seen how the Tomatis method can help children and teens with brain development and growth. It is a powerful means to help youths strengthen their neural connections. Therefore, I encourage all parents to consider an evaluation to see if the Tomatis method and peak performance training is appropriate for their teens.
If you would like to know more about my approach to peak performance with the help of the Tomatis method, please feel free to contact me.