Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 8, 2011

Fireworks, wildfire, prefrontal cortex

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:16 pm
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Monday’s wildfire in Moab started with a juvenile and two 20-somethings lighting off fireworks in tinder-dry desert conditions with 50-75 mph winds. Sixty acres are now scorched, with many trees lost and countless other damages, because these young people’s brains were not fully enough developed for them to make good choices. Listen up if you are currently the parent, sibling, grandparent, or neighbor of someone under 25: generally speaking, don’t expect them to amaze you with their mature decision-making processes. They will have to grow into that. It’s a part of our brain that lags behind until our mid-twenties.

As police questioned the young people for the second time, their story went from “we might have been near where it started” to “yeah, we were setting off fireworks by our makeshift camp.” Let us take a look at brain biology very briefly, shall we? Wikipedia will help us peek at the Prefrontal Cortex. (The bold font is added by me.)

This brain region has been implicated in planning complex cognitive behaviors, personality expression, decision making and moderating correct social behavior.[1] The basic activity of this brain region is considered to be orchestration of thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals.[2]

The most typical psychological term for functions carried out by the prefrontal cortex area is executive function. Executive function relates to abilities to differentiate among conflicting thoughts, determine good and bad, better and best, same and different, future consequences of current activities, working toward a defined goal, prediction of outcomes, expectation based on actions, and social “control” (the ability to suppress urges that, if not suppressed, could lead to socially-unacceptable outcomes).

If you made it to 25 without doing something foolish or stupid, you beat all the odds and I’d really like to meet you. Whatever your age, thank your prefrontal cortex for helping you with all the functions Wikipedia lists. Aren’t our brains amazing?!?

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