Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain connections may explain why girls mature faster

Date:
December 19, 2013
Source:
Newcastle University
Summary:
Scientists have discovered that as the brain re-organizes connections throughout our life, the process begins earlier in girls which may explain why they mature faster during the teenage years.

This is a colored image illustrating the brain connections for one of the 121 subjects (male, 4 years old).
Credit: Newcastle University

Newcastle University scientists have discovered that as the brain re-organizes 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 reorganization 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. The work is part of the EPSRC-funded Human Green Brain project which examines human brain development.

Using a non-invasive technique called diffusion tensor imaging -- a special measurement protocol for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners -- they demonstrated that fibers are overall getting pruned that period.

However, they found that not all projections (long-range connections) between brain regions are affected to the same extent; changes were influenced differently depending on the types of connections. Projections that are preserved were short-cuts that quickly link different processing modules, e.g. for vision and sound, and allow fast information transfer and synchronous processing. Changes in these connections have been found in many developmental brain disorders including autism, epilepsy and schizophrenia.

The researchers have demonstrated for the first time that the loss of white matter fibers between brain regions is a highly selective process -- a phenomenon they call preferential detachment. They show that connections between distant brain regions, between brain hemispheres, and between processing modules lose fewer nerve fibers during brain maturation than expected. The researchers say this may explain how we retain a stable brain network during brain maturation.

Commenting on the fact that these changes occurred earlier in females than males, Ms Sol Lim explains: "The loss of connectivity during brain development can actually help to improve brain function by reorganizing the network more efficiently. Say instead of talking to many people at random, asking a couple of people who have lived in the area for a long time is the most efficient way to know your way. In a similar way, reducing some projections in the brain helps to focus on essential information."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Newcastle University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Lim, C. E. Han, P. J. Uhlhaas, M. Kaiser. Preferential Detachment During Human Brain Development: Age- and Sex-Specific Structural Connectivity in Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) Data. Cerebral Cortex, 2013; DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bht333

Cite This Page:

Newcastle University. "Brain connections may explain why girls mature faster." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131219131153.htm>.
Newcastle University. (2013, December 19). Brain connections may explain why girls mature faster. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131219131153.htm
Newcastle University. "Brain connections may explain why girls mature faster." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131219131153.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) A study by King's College London says there's a link between how well kids draw at age 4 and how intelligent they are later in life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mental, Neurological Disabilities Up 21% Among Kids

Mental, Neurological Disabilities Up 21% Among Kids

Newsy (Aug. 18, 2014) New numbers show a decade's worth of changes in the number of kids with disabilities. They suggest mental disabilities are up; physical ones are down. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fake Weed Wreaks Havoc In New Hampshire

Fake Weed Wreaks Havoc In New Hampshire

Newsy (Aug. 17, 2014) New Hampshire's governor declared a state of emergency after more than 40 overdoses of synthetic marijuana in one week throughout the state. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins