-- Robert Preidt
MONDAY, Dec. 23, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- New brain research
suggests one reason girls mature faster than boys during their teen
As people age, their brains reorganize and reduce connections.
In this study, scientists examined brain scans from 121 healthy
people, aged 4 to 40. It's during this period that the major
changes in brain connectivity occur.
The researchers discovered that although the overall number of
connections is reduced, the brain preserves long-distance
connections important for integrating information. The findings
might explain why brain function doesn't decline -- but instead
improves -- during this period of connection pruning, according to
the research team.
The researchers also found that these changes in brain
connections begin at an earlier age in girls than in boys.
"Long-distance connections are difficult to establish and maintain but are crucial for fast and efficient processing," said study co-leader Marcus Kaiser, of Newcastle University, in England.
"If you think about a social network, nearby friends might give you very similar information -- you might hear the same news from different people," Kaiser said in a university news release. "People from different cities or countries are more likely to give you [new] information."
Similarly, some old information in the brain might be redundant,
he said. But connecting new information -- like visual input about
a person's face with acoustic input about their voice -- is "vital
in making sense of the outside world," he said.
Study co-leader Sol Lim, also of Newcastle University, outlined
why earlier brain-connection changes in girls might explain why
they tend to mature sooner than boys.
"The loss of connectivity during brain development can actually help to improve brain function by reorganizing the network more efficiently," Lim said in the news release.
"[For example], instead of talking to many people at random, asking a couple of people who have lived in an area for a long time is the most efficient way to know your way," Lim said. "In a similar way, reducing some projections in the brain helps to focus on essential information."
The study was published Dec. 19 in the journal
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about the
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