Brain Pruning and Pain – Response Systems

There are many things which the human brain is capable of. These include brain pruning and pain-response systems. These systems have a large impact on behavior, but despite their similar purposes, they have varying functions.

Pain-response systems cause our responses to pain, whether it is physical or emotional. The passage “Embarrassed? Blame Your Brain” by Jennifer Connor-Smith discusses a game called “Cyberball”. “In Cyberball, participants play a game of catch online with two other players. At least, that’s what they think is happening. In reality, the other ‘players’ are fake, just part of the game’s programming. The game starts fair… the players start throwing the ball to only each other, leaving the research participant out completely. (Connor-Smith 6). Many teens who participate in these testings “feel sad and rejected” (Connor-Smith 7). However, “adult brains quickly fire up systems to soothe anxiety and generate positive thoughts” (Connor-Smith 11). This proves that, while the bad thoughts are still there, they are minimized in adult brains. Simply put, teens are more prone to lasting emotional pain than adults; therefore, the result was that the Cyberball experiments had a greater effect on teens. Clearly, teens feel more social pain due to the functions of the pain-response system.

As humans learn new skills, they lose old ones. This is due to brain pruning. According to the passage “Use it or Lose it: a Good Brain Pruning” by Laura Zimmermann, “as a newborn you could perceive all of the world’s language sounds, but that ability was pruned away long ago when you began to specialize in the languages used by the people around you.” (Zimmermann 17). This implies that losing the ability to learn all languages has to go away for specialization in what is known as a first language. This largely agrees with the passage, which has a focus on replacing old with new. Zimmermann also says; “pruning allows your brain to become increasingly more specialized so that you are better at the skills and information you use” (Zimmermann 17). So while the pruning does get rid of skills, it helps people focus on more important skills. Pruning is one of the brain’s most important skills.

While both functions are important, they have their differences. The brain is like a computer, with many wildly different functions. However, this does not mean that the functions are completely different, as Zimmermann says “Extra connections continue forming in different parts of the brain through the early teen years”(Zimmermann 18). These “extra connections” explain Connor-Smith’s quote “Because our brains take more than two decades to develop, some brain systems come online sooner than others” (Connor-Smith 9). As extra connections form, they help the brain grow. Pain-response systems come on in early adolescence. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that the pruning allows for the pain-response systems to come online, so it would also be reasonable to say that these separate systems are related.

Teens feel more social pain than adults. This is expected due to the functionings of the pain-response systems and brain pruning. As a result, the varying systems of the brain have wildly different purposes.

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