‘Contemplative’ brains more developed in children

March 10th, 2008 - 7:16 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, March 10 (IANS) A brain network involved in contemplative tasks like forming a self-image or understanding the motivations of others is more developed and better networked in children than adults. Washington University scientists are working to figure out how connections and other brain networks normally develop and interact, Sciencedaily reported.

They want to conduct more detailed assessments of the effects of aging, brain injuries and conditions such as autism on brain function.

“Having this information will not only help us understand what’s going wrong in these patients, it will also allow us to better assess whether and how future interventions are providing those patients with effective treatment,” said co-author Bradley L. Schlaggar.

“Autism spectrum disorder first manifests earlier than the time period we were studying,” Schlaggar noted.

“But many of the functions it affects have been associated with the default network, so we’re eager to see if analysis of this network and its development can give us new insights into autism.”

Neuroscientists had first identified the network, called the default network, in 1996. Since then, scientists have linked it to the ability to analyse the mental states of others and use those insights to adjust the self-behaviour appropriately.

The research team have been using a new technique called resting-state functional connectivity MRI to identify brain networks and analyse their functions and development.

Instead of analysing mental activity when a volunteer works on a cognitive task, resting-state connectivity scans their brains after they have been asked to rest and not engage in any specific tasks.

The scans reveal changes in the oxygen levels in blood flowing to different areas of the brain.

Researchers interpret correlations in the rise and fall of blood oxygen to different brain areas as a sign that those areas likely work together. In neuroscientist’s terms, this means the regions have functional connectivity.

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