‘Teen brains different from those of adults, children’

March 30th, 2008 - 6:17 pm ICT by admin  

New York, March 30 (IANS) Changes in the brain during adolescence impact cognition, emotion and behaviour - and makes the teen brain rather unique and more open to taking risks, a new study said. The study reviews the results of the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) Longitudinal Brain Imaging Project, which indicated that the gray matter increases in volume till the early teens and then decreases until old age, ScienceDaily reported.

But pinning down differences in a rigorous way had been elusive until the Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan was developed, offering capacity to provide extremely accurate quantifications of brain anatomy and physiology without the use of ionising radiation.

Findings of the new study have been published by Jay N. Giedd in the latest issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. “Adolescence is a time of substantial neurobiological and behavioural change, but the teen brain is not a broken or defective adult brain,” Giedd wrote.

“The adaptive potential of the overproduction/selective elimination process, increased connectivity and integration of disparate brain functions, changing reward systems and frontal/limbic balance, and the accompanying behaviours of separation from family of origin, increased risk-taking, and increased sensation seeking have been highly adaptive in our past and may be so in our future.

“These changes and the enormous plasticity of the teen brain make adolescence a time of great risk and great opportunity.”

An accompanying editorial said: “Changes in the brain during childhood and adolescent development that are being documented through exquisite imaging by Giedd and others hold the promise for the development of hypotheses about the potential origins of behaviour that we have observed clinically for years….”

“Novelty-seeking/sensation-seeking and risk-taking are the basis for considerable growth during adolescence, as well as for the seemingly reckless behaviour of some adolescents,” the editorial said.

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