Thursday, December 19, 2013

Brain connections may explain why girls mature faster

Newcastle University scientists have discovered that as the brain re-organises connections throughout our life, the process begins earlier in girls which may explain why they mature faster during the teenage years.
 
As we grow older, our brains undergo a major reorganisation reducing the connections in the brain. Studying people up to the age of 40, scientists led by Dr Marcus Kaiser and Ms Sol Lim at Newcastle University found that while overall connections in the brain get streamlined, long-distance connections that are crucial for integrating information are preserved.

The researchers suspect this newly-discovered selective process might explain why brain function does not deteriorate – and indeed improves –during this pruning of the network. Interestingly, they also found that these changes occurred earlier in females than in males.

Explaining the work which is being published in Cerebral Cortex, Dr Kaiser, Reader in Neuroinformatics at Newcastle University, says: “Long-distance connections are difficult to establish and maintain but are crucial for fast and efficient processing. If you think about a social network, nearby friends might give you very similar information – you might hear the same news from different people. People from different cities or countries are more likely to give you novel information. In the same way, some information flow within a brain module might be redundant whereas information from other modules, say integrating the optical information about a face with the acoustic information of a voice is vital in making sense of the outside world.”
Brain "pruned"
The researchers at Newcastle, Glasgow and Seoul Universities evaluated the scans of 121 healthy participants between the ages of 4 and 40 years as this is where the major connectivity changes can be seen during this period of maturation and improvement in the brain.

Read complete article
Subscribe to NBIC News