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  • What is the smartest age?

  • Perhaps a day of friendly competition will lead us to the answer.

  • Tomorrow's the annual Brain Clashten teams of two competing in a decathlon of mental challenges, trivia competitions, and puzzles.

  • I've been training all year.

  • I'll need to pick the smartest, most capable teammate.

  • I've narrowed down the roster.

  • First we have Gabriela.

  • She may only be 8, but don't underestimate her!

  • She's fluent in two languages and is the ultimate outside-the-box thinker.

  • Then there's Ama.

  • She can recite 100 digits of pi, designs satellites for a living, and bakes a perfect soufflé.

  • Or I could go with Mr. Taylor.

  • He's the best chess player in the neighborhood, not to mention he's competed in over 20 Brain Clashes and is a five-time champion!

  • I'm not sure who to pick! Who's the smartest?

  • Which of these teammates should Amir choose for tomorrow's contest and why?

  • Of course, it depends.

  • While intelligence is often associated with things like IQ tests, these assessments fail to capture the scope and depth of a person's varied abilities.

  • So instead, we'll break down the idea of "smart" into categories like creativity, memory, and learning, and explore when the brain's best at each of them.

  • Let's start at the very beginning.

  • In the first few years of life, your brain undergoes incredible rapid growth, called synaptogenesis,

  • where more than one million new neural connections are formed every second.

  • As the brain develops, it goes through a pruning process.

  • Based on your experience and environment, used connections are strengthened and unused connections are removed.

  • Frequently used neuronal pathways are myelinated, wrapped in a layer of insulation, allowing information to travel faster.

  • This creates a more efficient, fine-tuned brain.

  • But this brain remodeling happens within and between brain regions at different times, allowing different skills to flourish at different ages.

  • For example, in childhood, brain regions involved in language learning develop quickly,

  • which is why many children can learn and master multiple languages.

  • Yet the prefrontal cortex, a brain region responsible for cognitive control and inhibition, is slower to develop.

  • As a result, some young children may struggle with strategic games, such as chess or checkers,

  • which require constant concentration, planning, and abstract thought.

  • At the same time, children tend to be more flexible, exploration-based learners.

  • They often use more creative approaches when finding solutions to riddles and are, on average, less afraid to make mistakes.

  • But adults have their own unique set of abilities.

  • Adults benefit from a well-developed prefrontal cortex, allowing them to better execute skills that require learning, focus, and memory,

  • making them quick and efficient puzzle solvers or crossword masters.

  • Late in adulthood, these same skills may decline as the brain's memory center, known as the hippocampus, shrinks.

  • But there's a reason for the phrase "older and wiser."

  • After a lifetime of learning, older adults have more knowledge to recall and utilize, making them excellent trivia partners.

  • Other factors that Amir should consider are his own strengths.

  • As an adolescent, the prefrontal cortical regions of your brain are more developed than in childhood.

  • This allows you to better navigate logic and math puzzles.

  • Simultaneously, deep inside the brain, regions that are important in motivation and reward are developing even faster,

  • driving teenagers like Amir to be curious and adventurous learners.

  • In many ways, you can think of the teenager as a jack-of-all-trades, with brains wired to seek out new experiences and learn quickly.

  • You're at a dynamic stage, where the choices you make and the skills you focus on can actually guide the development of your brain.

  • So, what's the smartest age?

  • There's no single answer.

  • It's 8, 16, 25, 65, and everything in between;

  • our brains have adapted to prioritize different skills at various ages to meet that stage of life's challenges and demands.

  • So no matter who Amir picks, having an age-diverse team is a good strategy.

What is the smartest age?

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B1 US TED-Ed brain smartest amir prefrontal age

What’s the smartest age? - Shannon Odell

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    JT posted on 2022/11/19
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