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  • Writer's pictureAshtyn Dunn

The science of impulsive behavior

"In life, we have 'need tos,' 'ought tos,' and 'want tos;' maturity is when you choose to do the 'ought tos' over the 'want tos,'" shared Dr. Michael Cicero, retired pediatrician and guest speaker during a special assembly on Monday, February 28. Dr. Cicero was the second speaker in the 2021-2022 Head of School Speaker Series. He followed the first speaker of the year, Dr. John-Paul Lotz, who spoke about protecting community and culture through in-person communication.

"Dr. Cicero's remarks zeroed in on the science of impulsive behavior," shared Trey Adams, Head of School. "I think it's important to understand that there are biological mechanisms at work in all that we do." Dr. Cicero related an adolescent's ability (or inability) to make informed decisions around the release of both dopamine and oxytocin in our bodies. As a neurotransmitter, dopamine is responsible for our moods, learning, and attention.

"He is a well-respected and highly admired doctor who has connections to many students in our community," stated Mme Mirna Misseri. Mme Misseri has coordinated the Head of School Speaker Series this year and researches each candidate before presenting them to Mr. Adams. "Dr. Cicero's visit helped students realize the effect of any kind of addiction on the development of the brain, and it is best to avoid overindulgence in things or experiences that give pleasure."

Dr. Cicero indicated that the brain has thresholds for pleasure and will adjust its threshold to higher and higher levels when there is exposure to too much of one thing. "Whether its video games, social media, or drugs, our bodies are prone to desire more over time," stated Mme Misseri. Dr. Cicero made examples and involved students in demonstration as he shared his message with Southampton Academy's middle and upper schools.

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