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The Adolescent Brain Is Hardwired For Debt

Last Friday, my wife and I went to the Maryland Science Center [3] to see the Body Worlds 2 [4] exhibit. Body Worlds [5] is an exhibit in which cadavers, properly donated, are plastinized (essentially turned into a plastic-like material through a “plastination” process). It’s a really unreal experience seeing actual bodies, which look like plastic, all opened up, in mid-motion, for all to see but it was certainly worth the price of admission.

Body Worlds 2 focused heavily on the brain, our little three pound nerve center and the little orb controls everything we do. One interesting quote from the exhibit, and one that I felt tied most closely with that of our soaring debt, was this one:

The Adolescent Brain: The immature pre-frontal cortex, the last region of the brain to develop, may be responsible for an increased desire for speed, danger and rebellion, and an indifference to planning and priorities.

The quote was used to explain why adolescent children are so rebellious and behave as though they think they’re invincible. It’s because the pre-frontal cortex [6] is responsible for “executive functions,” such as weighing the future consequences of current activities, and it’s not fully developed by adolescence. The brain isn’t fully developed until age 25 (hmm… maybe that’s why car insurance falls so much when you turn 25!) so you see a seven year window where your body is ready to take on anything but your brain isn’t. See how getting a credit card can be dangerous? How you now have access to credit but aren’t fully aware of the consequences of accumulating debt?

Okay, so what right? Why can you blame your credit card debt on your brain? Isn’t it just shuffling accountability from yourself onto nature? Yes, if you stop there.

All this means is that the debt you may, or may not, have acquired doesn’t define you. If you have a lot of debt, you might feel like defines you but it doesn’t. Just focus on righting the mistakes you made, in your biologically eased rebellious years, and you’ll be just fine. If you need a place to start, check out these ten simple steps to eliminating debt [7].

(Photo: lizhenry [8])