Saturday, November 11, 2017
Study Finds Gray Matter Density Increases During Adolescence - NEUROSCIENCE
For years, the common narrative in human developmental neuroimaging has been that gray matter in the brain – the tissue found in regions of the brain responsible for muscle control, sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control – declines in adolescence, a finding derived mainly from studies of gray matter volume and cortical thickness (the thickness of the outer layers of brain that contain gray matter). Since it has been well-established that larger brain volume is associated with better cognitive performance, it was puzzling that cognitive performance shows a dramatic improvement from childhood to young adulthood at the same time that brain volume and cortical thickness decline.
A study published by Penn Medicine researchers and featured on the cover of the Journal of Neuroscience may help resolve this puzzle, revealing that while volume indeed decreases from childhood to young adulthood, gray matter density actually increases. Their findings also show that while females have lower brain volume, proportionate to their smaller size, they have higher gray matter density than males, which could explain why their cognitive performance is comparable despite having lower brain volume. Thus, while adolescents lose brain volume, and females have lower brain volume than males, this is compensated for by increased density of gray matter.
“It is quite rare for a single study to solve a paradox that has been lingering in a field for decades, let alone two paradoxes, as was done by Gennatas in his analysis of data from this large-scale study of a whole cohort of youths,” said Ruben Gur.
“We now have a richer, fuller concept of what happens during brain development and now better understand the complementary unfolding processes in the brain that describe what happens.”
The study was led by Ruben Gur, PhD, professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Radiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Raquel Gur, MD, PhD, a professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Radiology, and Efstathios Gennatas, MBBS, a doctoral student of neuroscience working in the Brain Behavior Laboratory at Penn.
According to Gur, the study findings may better explain the extent and intensity of changes in mental life and behavior that occur during the transition from childhood to young adulthood.
Source & further reading:https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-releases/2017/may/penn-study-finds-gray-matter-density-increases-during-adolescence
Source: Corina Marinescu