Brain Continues to Develop Beyond Adolescence
Life experiences of young adulthood, such as going to college and starting careers, may drive the changes, researchers say
THURSDAY, Sept. 29, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Brain development doesn't stop in adolescence, but continues until people are well into their 20s, a new study says.
The finding challenges a long-held belief that brain development is completed in the teen years.
For their study, the University of Alberta researchers used MRI to scan the brains of 103 healthy people aged 5 to 32. Each volunteer was scanned at least twice.
The results showed that the brains of young adults were still developing wiring to the frontal lobe, which is involved in complex cognitive tasks such as inhibition, high-level functioning and attention.
This continued development of brain wiring may be due to the abundance of life experiences in young adulthood, such as going to college or university, starting a career, gaining independence, and developing new social and family relationships, the researchers suggested in a university news release.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The researchers also found that some people showed reduction in white matter integrity over time, an indication of brain degradation. They said this observation requires further study because it may help improve understanding of the link between psychiatric disorders and brain structure. Many psychiatric disorders develop in adolescence or young adulthood.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health outlines brain changes that occur in the teen years.