grey matter

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Posted by Simon ( on March 27, 2000 at 11:04:42:

Thought this might interest some. I found it in the health section of the local newspaper. Itís a little long, but
any mention of grey matter gets the pulse racing, and if somehow the development of it is affected, it may
have a bearing on ch.

Another thought - could this be why ch rarely seems to start befor late teenage years?

CHILDREN's brains change dramatically in
key areas well into puberty, researchers report in a new study that
contradicts some long-standing assumptions about brain development.

The anatomical changes - described as "fine-tuning" - surprised
scientists in the US and Canada who conducted the study.

The changes occurred between the ages of three and 15, in some cases
years after the brain has reached its full size.

Scientists had believed that neural development slowed after the first
few years of life, and the brain was essentially organised by the time a
child enters school.

In fact, they said, even in the mid-teens
the amount of grey matter in some very active areas can
and neurons can interconnect rapidly while
unneeded cells in other areas are flushed out.

Researchers said they have not determined how the findings might be
practically incorporated into new approaches to education or child
development, but the study suggests how critically intertwined the
stages of brain growth might be to a child's intellectual and emotional

"The teenage years are a kind of critical time to optimise the brain,"
said one of the study's co-authors, child psychiatrist Jay Giedd of the
National Institutes of Health.

"If a person is doing sports or academics or music, those are the
abilities that will be hardwired."

In the study, researchers at the University of Califomia in Los Angeles,
the NIH and McGill University in Montreal scanned the normal brains of
boys and girls aged three to 15. Some of the children participated as
long as four years.

They saw a wave of growth in the fibre system that relays information
between the brain hemispheres and is a good indicator of brain activity.
The scans also showed new connections being made in some areas, while
other areas shrank.

In children of three to six years, the team saw burgeoning in the
frontal networks that regulate the planning of new actions.

"In the very youngest children, there really is this furious growth
going on in the frontal circuits of the brain," said UCLA neurologist
Paul Thomson who helped develop the brain mapping technique. "You see
this extraordinary wave of peak growth that proceeds from the front of
the brain to the back."

In teenagers up to 15, the researchers observed peak growth rates in
areas in the middle and back of the brain associated with associative
thinking and language.

The finding reinforces the wisdom of learning new languages early in
life. By high school, the task may become biologically more difficult.

"The ability to learn a new language declines rapidly after age 12,"
said researchers reported. "Peak growth rates in linguistic regions, as
well as their attenuation around puberty, may reflect the conclusion of
the critical period for learning languages."



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