Adolescence is a tumultuous time in the development of the brain. Although scientists are now able to observe and quantify anatomic changes, much work remains to be done in interpreting the changes and understanding the forces that shape and guide them. One hypothesis for what influences the adolescence gray matter pruning is the "use-it-or-lose-it" principle. According to this principle, those cells and connections that are used will survive and flourish, whereas those cells and connections that are not used will wither and die. If this theory is correct, then the activities of the teen would have a powerful influence on the ultimate "hardwiring" of the adult brain.

The sexual dimorphism of the developing brain is of particular interest in child psychiatry, in which nearly all of the disorders have different ages of onset, symptomatology, and prevalences between boys and girls. The extent to which the sex differences in healthy brain development interact with other genetic and environmental effects to account for some of these clinical differences between boys and girls is an active focus of study.

Future directions of adolescent brain imaging are likely to include studies of identical and nonidentical twins, longitudinal studies, and the use of new tools such as functional MRI and diffusion tensor imaging.

Figure 3 Cerebellar growth curves based on 145 individuals (243 scans).

8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Age (in years)

Figure 3 Cerebellar growth curves based on 145 individuals (243 scans).

Understanding the nature and influences of brain changes during childhood and adolescence may help parents, teachers, society, and teens take steps to optimize the development of the brain.

See Also the Following Articles


Suggested Reading

Dawson, G., and Fischer, K. W. (Eds.) (1994). Human Behavior and the Developing Brain. The Guilford, New York.

Jacobson, M. (1991). Developmental Neurobiology, 3rd ed. Plenum, New York.

Johnson, M. (Ed.) (1993). Brain Development and Cognition: A Reader. Blackwell, Oxford.

Mitchel, G. F., and Moore, C. L. (1995). Developmental Psychobiol-ogy: An Interdisciplinary Science. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

Ratey, J. J. (2001). A User's Guide to the Brain. Pantheon, New York.

Rutter, M., and Rutter, M. (1993). Developing Minds. Basic Books, New York.

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