Brain Networks Trigger Up During Adolescence | Preparing Us for The Future

The networks in the brain adapt the complex social skill in this period.

Brain Networks Trigger Up During Adolescence | Preparing Us for The Future

Brain Networks Trigger Up During Adolescence | Preparing Us for The Future


Our brain networks become more advanced during the adolescence. We can compare this activity to the 'computer networks working online.' No surprise. The teenage brains adopt newer social skills that are comparatively adult and complex. This means they remain adolescents, but not the brain. Teenagers learn new skills as their brains develop. But it is also risky as it can also be a gateway for mental illness. A recent study shows that, and the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published it.

Our life faces a significant change when we are in our teenage state. We acquire social and cognitive skills in that period. It is also the most vulnerable point to be affected by any mental illness. The changes are related to the brain's development. But still, the mystery remains on how the brain matures from children to young adults.

The new research team combines scholars from the University College London and the University of Cambridge. It published the study clarifying the adolescent brain's development.

For this, the team selected 298 healthy and young people, ages ranging from 14 to 25. They tested them with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). All of them were scanned one to three occasions. There was a 6 to 12 months interval between the sessions. Researchers suggested the participants should lay down quietly during the session. It will keep the brain quiet enough to analyze different brain regions precisely. 

This experiment helped the team to find out the functional connectivity in our brains. There are two types of main changes during adolescence.

There are many primary faculty dealing regions in our brains like vision, movement, etc. When we are 14, they become strongly connected with each other. The connection becomes the strongest when we are 25. Experts call this 'conservative pattern of change.' They do this because, starting from the adolescent, the connection gets richer and richer until coming to adulthood.

But we also notice a different change pattern too. In our brains, some regions acquire advanced skills. For example, when we say, "What other people will think?" is an advanced social skill. Some define it as the 'so-called theory of mind.' While we are in our adolescence, incidents of redistribution appear in these regions. That is to say, weak connections get stronger, and strong connections become weaker. It is known as the 'disruptive' pattern of change.

The earlier data from other research on the brain was compared with the new fMRI results. The team found that high-level metabolic activity in the disruptive pattern of change. The metabolic activity is related to the nerve cells' connections re-modeling. 

Dr. Petra Vértes says, "From the results of these brain scans, it appears that the acquisition of new, more adult skills during adolescence depends on the active, disruptive formation of new connections between brain regions, bringing new brain networks' online' for the first time to deliver advanced social and other skills as people grow older." He is a senior contributor to this study. He is also a Fellow of MQ, a mental health research charity.

Another joint senior in the study is Professor Ed Bullmore. He currently works as the Department of Psychiatry at Cambridge. He says, "We know that depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders often occur for the first time in adolescence -- but we don't know why. These results show us that active re-modeling of brain networks is ongoing during the teenage years, and a deeper understanding of brain development could lead to a deeper understanding of the causes of mental illness in young people."

Dr. František also says, "Studying brain functional connectivity with fMRI is tricky as even the slightest head movement can corrupt the data -- this is especially problematic when studying adolescent development as younger people find it harder to keep still during the scan. Here, we used three different approaches for removing signatures of head movement from the data, and obtained consistent results, which made us confident that our conclusions are not related to head movement, but to developmental changes in the adolescent brain."

Welcome Trust supported the study.