October 28, 2016

Lecturer offers glimpse inside the adolescent brain

May 26, 2011

By Adam White
Observer staff

Michael Nerney, an expert on adolescent brain development and consultant in substance abuse prevention and education, will give a lecture entitled ‘Welcome to the Adolescent Brain’ on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Champlain Valley Union High School auditorium. The lecture is intended for parents of middle and high school-aged children. (Photo courtesy of Michael Nerney)

It is a line muttered by many an exasperated parent toward a troubled adolescent: What were you thinking?

Michael Nerney, an expert on adolescent brain development and consultant in substance abuse prevention and education, will explore the answer to that question in a lecture entitled “Welcome to the Adolescent Brain” on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Champlain Valley Union High School auditorium. The presentation will include an examination of diffusion spectrum imagery of teenagers’ brains, to illustrate the increased role that emotion plays in their decision-making processes.

“These images are fascinating – it’s like looking at billions of strands of colored thread,” Nerney said. “They help us to understand that kids’ brains do not process information the same way that adults’ do; they experience a lot more emotional intensity.”

Nerney said that emotional intensity becomes particularly important when adolescents face choices associated with risk.

“Research has found that adolescents receive a higher level of emotional reward from both considering and taking risks,” said Nerney, citing the example of kids raising their hands and cheering on a descending rollercoaster, while parents on the same ride maintain a “death grip” on the safety bar.

Margo Austin, a Peer Prevention Educator with Connecting Youth, first got the idea of bringing Nerney to CVU after listening to him speak at a Northeastern Family Institute conference last fall. Austin was most impressed with the way Nerney got his message across to the audience.

“Michael is incredibly knowledgeable, and his delivery is outstanding,” Austin said. “He is able to take some abstract concepts and combine them with real-life storytelling to make the material completely relatable.”

Nerney’s lecture is part of Connecting Youth’s continuing outreach effort aimed at educating and empowering parents to deal with critical issues in their children’s lives. Austin, a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, sees the event as an opportunity for parents to connect and form networks of support.

“My hope is always to get parents out and talking to one another, so they know that they’re not alone and they understand that there are resources available to them within the community,” Austin said.

Welcome to the Adolescent Brain was set up through a partnership between Friends of CVU, the Northeastern Family Institute and Connecting Youth, and is free and open to the public. More information can be obtained by contacting Austin at 482-7156 or maustin@cvuhs.org.


  1. Mary Martin says:

    I would like to explain the charges of unlawful restraint because it sounds really awful. No we didn’t hold anyone hostage. We were simply standing in front of some VT Gas/Michel’s trucks. They were in no way restrained. When the men decided to leave, they simply backed up and took off. The police have been hired by VT Gas and they sure do have a way of turning a phrase.

    Mr. Recchia refers to this action as a “last-ditch” attempt to scuttle the pipeline. Wrong again! This was far from our last attempt to bring sanity and reason to our state officials who refuse to listen or help.

    Nate Palmer and Kari Cuneo and their families are not the only land owners who have fought this immoral taking of their land. So many folks have lost that fight for lack of time and money. It’s quite intimidating to go before the Public Service Board and their team of lawyers, to sit down at a table filled with VT Gas attorneys and not have anyone to watch your back and advise you.

    When people are up against the wall, they fight back any way they can. Peaceful protests not only express our frustration but they help bring attention to what is happening to our friends and neighbors..

    So Mr. Recchia, we are not done!

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