St. Louis, March 6, 2008 -- A brain network linked to introspective tasks -- such as forming the self-image or understanding the motivations of others -- is less intricate and well-connected in children, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have learned. They also showed that the network establishes firmer connections between various brain regions as an individual matures.
The scientists are working to establish a picture of how these connections and other brain networks normally develop and interact. They want to use that picture to conduct more detailed assessments of the effects of aging, brain injuries and conditions such as autism on brain function.
"Having this information will not only help us understand what's going wrong in these patients, it will also allow us to better assess whether and how future interventions are providing those patients with effective treatment," says senior author Bradley L. Schlaggar, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics, radiology, neurology and anatomy and neurobiology.
The results appear online this week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Neuroscientists including co-author Marcus E. Raichle, M.D., professor of radiology, of anatomy and neurobiology and of neurology first identified the network, which is called the default network, in 1996. Since then, scientists have linked it to a number of inward-looking activities, including the creation of the "autobiographical self," a person's internal narrative of their life story; and "mentalizing," the ability to analyze the mental states of others and use those insights to adjust the self's behavior appropriately.
Schlaggar, Raichle and colleagues including Steve Petersen, Ph.D., the James McDonnell Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and professor of neurology and psychology, have been using a new technique called resting-state functional connectivity MRI to identify brain n
|Contact: Michael Purdy|
Washington University School of Medicine