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Brain network linked to contemplation in adults is less complex in children
Date:3/7/2008

etworks and analyze their functions and development. Instead of analyzing mental activity when a volunteer works on a cognitive task, resting-state connectivity scans their brains after they have been asked to rest and not engage in any specific tasks. The scans reveal changes in the oxygen levels in blood flowing to different areas of the brain. Researchers interpret correlations in the rise and fall of blood oxygen to different brain areas as a sign that those areas likely work together. In neuroscientist's terms, this means the regions have functional connectivity.

Damien A. Fair, a graduate student in Schlaggar's lab, led the new study, which compared functional connectivity in 13 brain regions linked to the default network in children ages seven to nine and adults ages 21 to 31.

"The difference between children and adults is profound," Fair says. "In a graph depicting the strength of connections between the brain regions we studied, children's minds have just a few connections between some regions, while the adult brains have a web-like mesh of many different interconnecting links involving all the regions."

In papers published in recent years, the researchers have used the same techniques to identify two networks that they think control much of the brain activity behind behaviors directed toward "external" goals (see http://mednews.wustl.edu/news/page/normal/9639.html and http://mednews.wustl.edu/news/page/normal/9778.html), including observing and interacting with the environment.

Schlaggar and colleagues plan further study of how the brain networks interact during development and in the mature brain. They also are looking at how network functions differ in patients with brain injuries and conditions such as autism.

"Autism spectrum disorder first manifests earlier than the time perio
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Contact: Michael Purdy
purdym@wustl.edu
314-286-0122
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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