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Mar 20, 2017 12:26 PM EDT

Penn Study Discover Evolutionary Significance In Adolescent Brain Remodeling

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A team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania has studied brain remodeling in connection to the biological processes that drive these processes. The study found new patterns of coordinated development in the outer layer of the cerebrum and showed how these related to functional networks.

They were able to find that the convergence between structural and functional networks was inversely related to functional complexity. Networks for motor, senses, vision and function aligned to distinct structural networks.

The discovery is expected to open new opportunities for future studies into several psychiatric disorders that may begin during adolescence. The team was from the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine and their study has been published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

In a press release, via EurekAlert, it was reported that adolescent brain remodeling supports the tuning of behavior and cognitive abilities, which include reasoning, coordination, decision-making, motivation as well as regulation of emotions. Being able to measure these brain parameters as they develop is vital in understanding normal and abnormal brain maturation.

The team studied 934 youths aged 8 to 22 from the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort, which is collaboration between Penn Medicine and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. They took high-dimensional, complex data and filtered it down to a 18 developing structural brain networks.

Researchers used a technique named non-negative matrix factorization to analyze complex patterns of brain structure and identify patterns of development in adolescence. Instead of just looking at the patterns of ridges (gyri) and folds (sulci) in the brain, the team examined how these change together.

Phys.org noted that this approach revealed a set of structural brain networks that have clear functional and evolutionary significance. It was found that the change in these structural networks during adolescence is related to the rate of evolution. It was measured by the expansion of the cortical areas.

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