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Brain Development Continues in to Early Adulthood

Posted Oct 16 2011 12:34am
Posted on 2011-10-13 06:00:00 in Brain and Mental Performance |

Whereas it has been a long-held belief in medical communities that the human brain ceases to develop in adolescence, a number of recent studies suggest that brain development continues into early adulthood. Catherine Lebel, from the University of Alberta (Canada), and colleagues used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of 103 healthy people, ages of 5 and 32 years. The study demonstrated that parts of the brain continue to develop post-adolescence within individual subjects.  Specifically, the researchers revealed that young adult brains were continuing to develop wiring to the frontal lobe; tracts responsible for complex cognitive tasks such as inhibition, high-level functioning and attention. The researchers posit that this may be due to a plethora of life experiences in young adulthood such as pursing post-secondary education, starting a career, independence and developing new social and family relationships.  An important observation the team made when reviewing the brain-imaging scan results was that in some people, several tracts showed reductions in white matter integrity over time, which is associated with the brain degrading. The team submits that this observation needs to be further studied because it may provide a better understanding of the relationship between psychiatric disorders and brain structure, as these disorders typically develop in adolescence or young adulthood.

Catherine Lebel, Christian Beaulieu.  “Longitudinal Development of Human Brain Wiring Continues from Childhood into Adulthood .”  The Journal of Neuroscience, 27 July 2011, 31(30):10937-10947.

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