BBC 6 minute English-The teenage brain

BBC 6 minute English-The teenage brain



Transcript of the podcast

NB: This is not a word-for-word transcript

Neil: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Neil

Rob: … and I’m Rob. Hello

Neil: Hello, Rob. I like your new hoody

Rob: Oh, right! Thanks a lot. A hoody is a sweatshirt with a hood, by the way. You don’t think I’m too old for hoodies, do you

Neil: Never. No, no. You too old? Never, Rob! It’s all about how young you feel inside, isn’t it

Rob: Is that right? Well, I don’t feel a day over sixteen, Neil

Neil: Excellent! Now, that might help you because in this programme we’re talking about the teenage brain! So, are you ready for today’s quiz question, Rob

Rob: Yes, I am Neil. Fire away

Neil: OK. What part of the brain is connected with basic emotions? Is it the

a) prefrontal cortex

b) cerebral cortex? or

c) limbic sytem

Rob: OK. I was terrible at biology – I never listened in class. So I’m going to have to take a guess and say the answer is a) prefrontal cortex

Neil: OK, well. We’ll find out if that’s the right answer at the end of the programme. Now Rob, were you a well-behaved student

Rob: Well, I wasn’t badly behaved. But we had a horrible school uniform and sometimes I got detention just for having my shirt hanging out

Neil: Well, that’s pretty harsh! Detention means having to stay at school after the day to do extra work

Rob: Yes it was a punishment for doing something wrong. Now some people think that typical teenage behaviour such as embarrassment, anxiety, mood swings and risk taking is caused by changing hormones

Neil: Mood swings are sudden changes of mood and hormones are chemicals in the body that stimulate cells and organs into action

Rob: Yes. I bet you were a moody teenager, Neil

Neil: I might have been (in a teenage voice)… no, let’s not go there, Rob. Now, apparently, it’s not only our hormones that change when we reach adolescence – that’s the age when we start changing into an adult

Rob: That’s right. According to scientific research, some teenage behaviour is probably caused by changes in the brain. Let’s listen to Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore talking about this. What’s the phrase she uses to mean to enjoy

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London

There’s a pretty established theory of risk taking – the biological basis of risk taking – which is that two different systems in the brain developed at different rates. The parts of the brain called the limbic system, which includes the regions of the brain that give you a rewarding feeling out of taking a risk, a kind of kick out of taking a risk, and an emotion out of taking a risk, are developing more quickly than the part of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex, which inhibits risk taking

Neil: So what risks do teenagers typically take

Rob: Well. The things most parents worry about, such as drinking, smoking, possibly taking drugs, and driving too fast

Neil: And the reason that they take these risks might be because the area of the brain that rewards risk-taking behaviour develops more quickly than the area of the brain that inhibits – or slows down – risk-taking behaviour

Rob: And what was the phrase she used to mean enjoy something

Neil: It was to get a kick out of something. Teenagers ‘get a kick out of’ and are rewarded for taking risks by one part of the brain – the limbic system – while the other part – the prefrontal cortex – does little to slow things down

Rob: Well, that sounds more fun than being an adult. But actually, we often give teenagers a hard time. Let’s hear more about this from Sarah-Jayne

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London

Something that I’ve noticed since working with teenagers is that they are the butt of many jokes. And they’re parodied left, right and centre. They’re demonized in newspapers. And whenever I tweet anything about the teenage brain – which I do quite frequently – invariably, inevitably, I’ll get a reply from someone saying, Oh, what, teenagers actually have brains

Neil: Now of course some teenagers are very brainy – brainy is another way of saying clever. I know young people who are brilliant at maths, art and science

Rob: But we heard Sarah-Jayne describe teenagers as being the butt of a joke – that means to be its target. And if you parody someone you copy their style in an exaggerated way to make people laugh

Neil: And to demonize a person or a group means to talk about them as if they were evil or threatening. Poor teenagers, Rob

Rob: Oh, don’t worry, Neil – they’ll grow up and be like us one day! And now it’s time to hear the answer to today’s quiz question

Neil: Yes it is. I asked you, what part of the brain is connected with basic emotions? Is it the

a) prefrontal cortex

b) cerebral cortex? or

c) limbic system

Rob: And I chose a) prefrontal cortex. Was I right

Neil: Well. I’m afraid to say, Rob, that you were absolutely wrong

Rob: Using the wrong part of my brain, obviously

Neil: Yes. The answer is c) the limbic system. But don’t get too emotional about getting that wrong and instead, please remind us of the words we learned today

Rob: Good idea. We heard

get a kick out of something
limbic system
prefrontal cortex
butt of a joke
to demonize

Neil: Well, that’s the end of today’s 6 Minute English. I hope you got some kicks from today’s show! You can hear more programmes at Please join us again soon

Both: Bye

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