Child brain begins to organise itself

Scans show how activity in disparate neurological regions coalesces as kids mature.

As children mature, increased synchronisation between specific areas of the brain alters how they view themselves and others, a new study suggests.

This includes an increasing aptitude for introspection, researchers say.

Georgetown University Medical Centre researchers used functional MRI to examine the activity of the five scattered brain regions that comprise what's known as the default-mode network (DMN).

It's believed that the DMN, which is only active when the mind is at rest and allowed to wander or daydream, plays an important role in a person's introspective understanding of themselves and others, and in the formation of beliefs, intentions and desires through autobiographical memory, the study authors explained.

The researchers found that the DMN regions don't yet work together in children ages 6 to 9. These areas light up in an fMRI scan (which tracks brain activity in real time), but they do not do so simultaneously.

However, by ages 10 to 12, the regions begin to function together and at ages 13 to 19 they're fully coordinated.

"These results suggest that children develop introspection over time as their brains develop," first author and neuroscientist Stuart Washington said in a GUMC news release.

"Before then they are somewhat egocentric, which is not to mean that they are negatively self-centred, but they think that everyone views the world in the same way they do. They lack perspective in that way."

The study was to be presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, in San Diego.

The team also pointed out that previous research has suggested that the DMN is not well synchronised in many people with autism.

(HealthdayNews, November 2010)

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