WTF Fun Fact 13073 – Teens Tune Out

Got teenagers? Do you feel like they listen to you? If not, it’s likely because our brains rewire themselves to tune out our parents in our teen years. In fact, Stanford University research shows that teens tune out their mothers’ voices around the age of 13.

How teens tune out

More specifically, according to Stanford (cited below), “Around age 13, kids’ brains no longer find their moms’ voices uniquely rewarding, and they tune into unfamiliar voices more.”

Of course, this doesn’t give a person a free pass not to listen to their mom. But it does seem to be an evolutionary mechanism. Our brains are preparing to separate us from our parents in the long run – something we all have to do in order to become successful adults.

Clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences Daniel Abrams, Ph.D. told Stanford News: “Just as an infant knows to tune into her mother’s voice, an adolescent knows to tune into novel voices. As a teen, you don’t know you’re doing this. You’re just being you: You’ve got your friends and new companions and you want to spend time with them. Your mind is increasingly sensitive to and attracted to these unfamiliar voices.”

Rewarding signals

All of these changes have to do with the reward centers of the brain. The brain prioritizes stimuli (like certain voices) that activate the reward centers. Unfamiliar voices start to stimulate the brain more around age 13. So while they are still capable of listening to their moms, teens simply don’t get the same level of stimulation and comfort from her familiar voice as they did as children.

In most ways, this is a good thing. It’s a sign that their brain is maturing and getting ready to engage with the world independently from their parents. This allows them to become “socially adept outside their families” – something required for any adult.

How things change over time

Under the age of 12, kids can identify their mom’s voice with great precision, and it tends to activate reward centers and emotion-processing regions of the brain. But if you’re a mom, take heart. Your voice is what sets your child’s brain up for their social and emotional future.

According to co-author Percy Mistry, Ph.D., “The mother’s voice is the sound source that teaches young kids all about the social-emotional world and language development.”

But things change as we grow up. And the switch towards privileging unfamiliar voices between ages 13 and 14 happens at the same time in all genders.  WTF fun facts

Source: “The teen brain tunes in less to Mom’s voice, more to unfamiliar voices, study finds” — Stanford University

WTF Fun Fact 12889 – Dasia Taylor’s Life-Saving Sutures

Anywhere from 2% to 5% of surgical incisions and other stitched-up lacerations get infected, and it can be life-threatening. That’s partly because patients may not know their wounds are infected until they see signs like redness or experience pain. Teenager Dasia Taylor has an answer – she invented sutures that turn a different color when a wound is infected.

Dasia Taylor’s suture solution

When she began the project in October 2019, Dasia Taylor was just 17 years old. The Iowa City West High School student was participating in science fairs and was eventually named one of 40 finalists in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, a highly prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors.

Her invention was a suture threat used for medical stitches that changes color from bright red to dark purple when an infection is present. She uses beet juice to make the dye. But it’s far more chemically complicated than that.

Color-changing sutures save lives

Dasia Taylor’s invention is designed in part to help people who don’t have access to convenient medical care and is based on a process already known to scientists.

According to Smithsonian Magazine (cited below): “Taylor had read about sutures coated with a conductive material that can sense the status of a wound by changes in electrical resistance, and relay that information to the smartphones or computers of patients and doctors. While these ‘smart’ sutures could help in the United States, the expensive tool might be less applicable to people in developing countries, where internet access and mobile technology is sometimes lacking.

While less than 5% of people in the US whose wounds are treated with sutures develop an infection, that number jumps to 11% in developing countries.

Taylor is also concerned about the high rate of C-section infections in parts of Africa and the US (the US has just as high of a rate of infection – sometimes higher – than some African nations with fewer medical resources).

How do color-changing sutures work?

So, how do the sutures help notify patients of an infection? Well, according to Smithsonian: “Healthy human skin is naturally acidic, with a pH around five. But when a wound becomes infected, its pH goes up to about nine. Changes in pH can be detected without electronics; many fruits and vegetables are natural indicators that change color at different pH levels.”

“I found that beets changed color at the perfect pH point,” said Taylor. Bright red beet juice turns dark purple at a pH of nine. “That’s perfect for an infected wound. And so, I was like, ‘Oh, okay. So beets is where it’s at.’”

But that wasn’t the full solution. Taylor also had to find a material that would hold onto the dye while not being too thick to be used as a suture. She tackled the problem during the COVID lockdown and ran experiments until she found the best of the 10 materials she was trying – a cotton-polyester blend that could change color in just minutes of picking up a change in pH.

There are still some kinks to work out before it goes from the laboratory to the bedside, but it’s safe to say this teen is on her way to an illustrious research career.  WTF fun facts

Source: “This High Schooler Invented Color-Changing Sutures to Detect Infection” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact – Old Chewing Gum

WTF Fun Fact - Ancient Chewing Gum

Archaeologists found “chewing gum” in western Sweden believed to be 9,000 years old, made of resin sweetened with honey, and the tooth marks showed it had been chewed on by a stone-age teenager. WTF Fun Facts