Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Fear and the adolescent rodent

Sometimes you really wonder about the value-add of journalists.

Take this classic example from the ABC online. 

Unreconstructed techno-babble

It's a vaguely interesting, though completely unsurprising story.  But almost impenetrable regardless due to the failure of the (unnamed) writer to translate the scientific gobbledy-gook into actual English.

Take this paragraph:

"From an evolutionary perspective, a temporary suppression of contextual fear during adolescence may prove highly adaptive, as it occurs just as the mouse transitions into higher exploratory behaviours away from the nest," the study said.

"For the early-adolescent rodent to exhibit high levels of contextual fear would likely prove maladaptive for exploratory behaviour required for leaving the nest, exploring the surrounding environment, and becoming independent of the colony."

Why your teenager has no fear...

What it is actually trying to say (I think) is that studies of mice show that adolescents don't react to fear the same way adults or children do - their instinctive reactions, borne of memory, are suppressed. 

And this fearlessness is part of our biologic programming, enabling teens (whether of the human or rodent variety) to have the courage to take those first steps toward leaving the family home, and exploring the wider world.

Hmm, knew there was an entirely deterministic reason my nephew decided to go sky-jumping on a recent NZ trip!

But I suspect that the story is hardly news to parents and caregivers of teenage rodents....Indeed, Gopher suggested a viewing of this video (in fairness, my own nephews seems to be mostly past this stage and quite human these days!):


Gopher said...

This sums it up no?

Kate said...

Brilliant! I've added it to the post...