Brain Development Sequence Through Adolescence: Study Reveals Health

A recent Pain Medicine study found that brain development is not consistent throughout the brain. It follows a recently discovered evolutionary progression. Young people are sensitive to socioeconomic conditions well into adolescence because brain regions that support cognitive, social, and emotional functions seem to retain the ability to change, adapt, and rebuild longer than other brain regions.

Brain Development Sequence Through Adolescence: Study Reveals (Unsplash)
Brain Development Sequence Through Adolescence: Study Reveals (Unsplash)

The results of the study were recently published in Nature Neuroscience.

Using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers studied how the human brain develops from age 8 to 23 (MRI). The results suggest a new way to explore how individual brain regions lose flexibility at different developmental stages.

Also Read: Watching TV With Kids May Benefit Their Brain Development: Study

Brain plasticity refers to the ability of neural circuits—the connections and pathways in the brain for thought, emotion, and movement—to change or reorganize in response to internal biological signals or the external environment. Although it is generally understood that children have higher brain plasticity than adults, this study provides new insights into where and when brain plasticity declines in childhood and adolescence.

Findings suggest that reductions in brain plasticity occur early in “sensory-motor” areas such as visual and auditory areas, and later in “associative” areas, such as those involved in higher-order thinking (problem solving and social learning). . As a result, brain regions that support executive, social, and emotional functions appear to be particularly malleable and responsive to the environment during early adolescence, as plasticity emerges later in development.

“Studying brain development in the living human brain is challenging. Much of neuroscientists’ understanding of brain plasticity during development actually comes from studies with rodents. But the rodent brain lacks many of what we refer to as the associated areas of the human brain, so we understand how these important areas develop. Little is known about,” corresponding author Theodore D. Satterthwaite, MD, McClure Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and director of Penn Lifespan Informatics. Neuroimaging Center (PennLINC).

To address this challenge, the researchers focused on comparing insights from previous rodent studies to young MRI imaging insights. Previous research examining how neural circuits behave when they are plastic has found that brain plasticity is linked to a unique pattern of “intrinsic” brain activity. Intrinsic activity is the neural activity that occurs in a part of the brain when it is at rest, or when it is not engaged by external stimuli or mental activity. When a brain region is less developed and more plastic, there tends to be more intrinsic activity within the region, and that activity also tends to be more synchronized. This is because many neurons are active in this area, and they are active at the same time. As a result, measurements of brain activity waves show an increase in amplitude (or height).

“Imagine that individual neurons within a brain region are like the instruments of an orchestra. As multiple instruments play together in synchrony, the sound level of the orchestra increases, and the amplitude of the sound waves becomes higher,” said the first author. Neuroscience PhD student Valerie Sydnor added, “Just as a decibel meter can measure the amplitude of sound waves, the amplitude of intrinsic brain activity can be measured with functional MRI while children are resting in the scanner. This allowed our team to safely and non-invasively measure functional brain plasticity in young adults. Study the marker.”

Analyzing MRI scans from more than 1,000 people, the authors found that a functional marker of brain plasticity declined during childhood in sensory-motor areas but did not decline until mid-adolescence in associative areas.

“These slow-developing accessory areas are also those that are important for children’s cognitive acquisition, social interaction and emotional well-being,” added Satterthwaite. “We are really beginning to understand the uniqueness of the long evolutionary program of humans.”

“If a brain region remains flexible over a long period of time, it can remain sensitive to environmental influences over a long window of development,” Sydner said, “and this study finds evidence of that.”

The authors studied the relationship between the youth’s socioeconomic environment and a similar functional marker of plasticity. They found that the effects of the environment on the brain were not uniform across regions and constant across development. Instead, the effects of the environment on the brain changed as the identified developmental sequence progressed.

Critically, youth’s socioeconomic environment had a large effect on brain development in typically late-maturing accessory brain regions, and the effect was found to be greatest during adolescence.

“This work lays the foundation for understanding how the environment shapes neurodevelopmental trajectories, even in adolescence,” said PennLink postdoctoral researcher and co-author Bart Larson, PhD.

Sydnor added, “The hope is that studying developmental plasticity will help us understand how environmental enrichment programs have beneficial effects on each child’s neurodevelopmental trajectory. Our findings support that programs designed to reduce disparities in youth’s socioeconomic environment remain important for brain development during adolescence.”

This story is published from the Wire Agency feed without modification to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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