Psychiatrists at Cambridge University have started a £5 million study looking at brain activity in teenagers with the aim of identifying differences in the way it’s wired. The researchers are also keen to see whether the changes that occur as the brain develops are what cause teenagers to eventually grow out of their sometimes antisocial behaviour. In the process, it is hoped that the researchers will learn more about the way mental disorders develop in young adults.
The project will involve 300 brain scans of people aged 14-24 which will investigate the way the brain changes as it develops. Professor Ed Bullmore (one of the researchers) has said that the MRI scans will give them good pictures of how the brain’s anatomy changes as it develops. He mentions that the team are particularly interested in how the white matter, the tissue at the centre of the brain, might change as it develops.
It is thought that the white matter may change as the brain starts to control impulses caused by hormones. These brain changes are expected to be responsible for more ‘adult’ behaviour.
Dr Becky Inkster, also working on the study, has added:
“Arguably we’ve all been there and it’s a very awkward and complex and confusing time of life. So to be able to express oneself is quite difficult. So by the use of imaging and other tools we can really tap into these features of the adolescent brain and understand how they develop over time as they become a young adult.”
The researchers are also hoping to identify whether psychotic disorders could be caused by abnormal development of the brain during adolescence.
Our teenage years are a turbulent and often tough period in our lives. If you are struggling, it could help to speak to a counsellor. For more information on what issues they could help you deal with, please see our Types of Distress page.
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