September 23, 2011
Science Daily/University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
The human brain doesn't stop developing at adolescence, but continues well into our 20s, demonstrates recent research. It has been a long-held belief in medical communities that the human brain stopped developing in adolescence. But now there is evidence that this is in fact not the case.
It has been a long-held belief in medical communities that the human brain stopped developing in adolescence. But now there is evidence that this is in fact not the case, thanks to medical research conducted in the Department of Biomedical Engineering by researcher Christian Beaulieu, an Alberta Innovates -- Health Solutions scientist, and by his PhD student at the time, Catherine Lebel. Lebel recently moved to the United States to work at UCLA, where she is a post-doctoral fellow working with an expert in brain-imaging research.
"This is the first long-range study, using a type of imaging that looks at brain wiring, to show that in the white matter there are still structural changes happening during young adulthood," says Lebel. "The white matter is the wiring of the brain; it connects different regions to facilitate cognitive abilities. So the connections are strengthening as we age in young adulthood."
"What's interesting is a lot of psychiatric illness and other disorders emerge during adolescence, so some of the thought might be if certain tracts start to degenerate too soon, it may not be responsible for these disorders, but it may be one of the factors that makes someone more susceptible to developing these disorders," says Beaulieu.
"It's nice to provide insight into what the brain is doing in a healthy control population and then use that as a springboard so others can ask questions about how different clinical disorders like psychiatric disease and neurological disease may be linked to brain structure as the brain progresses with age."