Structure-function coupling also aligned with known patterns of brain expansion over the course of primate evolution.
Structure-function coupling also aligned with known patterns of brain expansion over the course of primate evolution.

Study focuses on changes in neural circuits underlying self-control during adolescence

ANI | Updated: Jan 04, 2020 20:24 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Jan 4 (ANI): Researchers applied tools from network science to identify how anatomical connections in the brain develop to support neural activity underlying key areas of the brain.
The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
According to the study's senior author and assistant professor of Psychiatry at Penn, Theodore Satterthwaite, "By charting brain development across childhood and adolescence, we can better understand how the brain supports executive function and self-control in both healthy kids and those with different mental health experiences.
"Since abnormalities in developing brain connectivity and deficits in executive function are often linked to the emergence of mental illness during youth, our findings may help identify biomarkers of brain development that predict cognitive and clinical outcomes later in life," Penn added.
In this study, the researchers mapped structure-function coupling--the degree to which a brain region's pattern of anatomical connections supports the synchronised neural activity.
This could be thought of like a highway, where the anatomical connections are the road and the functional connections are the traffic flowing along those roads. Researchers mapped and analyzed multi-modal neuroimaging data from 727 participants ages 8 to 23 years, and three major findings emerged.
Results showed that structure-function coupling also aligned with known patterns of brain expansion over the course of primate evolution. Previous work comparing human, ape, and monkey brains has shown that sensory areas like the visual system are highly conserved across primate species and have not expanded much during recent evolution.
The team found that the brain areas which expanded rapidly during evolution had lower structure-function coupling, while simple sensory areas that have been conserved in recent evolution had higher structure-function coupling.
Researchers also found that structure-function coupling increased throughout childhood and adolescence in complex frontal brain regions. These are the same regions that tend to have lower baseline structure-function coupling, are expanded compared to monkeys, and are responsible for self-control.
"These results suggest that executive functions like impulse control--which can be particularly challenging for children and adolescents--rely in part on the prolonged development of structure-function coupling in complex brain areas like the prefrontal cortex," explained lead author Graham Baum, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, who was a Penn neuroscience PhD student during the time of the research.
"This has important implications for understanding how brain circuits become specialized during development to support flexible and appropriate goal-oriented behaviour." (ANI)

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