Tuesday August 21, 2018

Grey Matter Volume generally Decrease with Age, its density actually Increases during Adolescence: Study

Grey matter density, a measure often assumed to be highly related to volume, has not been systematically investigated in development

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New York, May 26, 2017: While grey matter volume generally decrease with age, its density actually increases during adolescence, new research has found.

Grey matter is found in regions of the brain responsible for muscle control, sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision-making, and self-control.

For years, the common narrative in human developmental neuro-imaging has been that grey matter in the brain declines in adolescence, a finding derived mainly from studies of grey matter volume and cortical thickness –the thickness of the outer layers of brain that contain grey matter.

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Grey matter density, a measure often assumed to be highly related to volume, has not been systematically investigated in development.

Th new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience revealed that while volume indeed decreases from childhood to young adulthood, grey matter density actually increases.

“We now have a richer, fuller concept of what happens during brain development,” said Ruben Gur, Professor at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, US.

Since it has been well-established that larger brain volume is associated with better cognitive performance, it was puzzling that cognitive performance shows a dramatic improvement from childhood to young adulthood at the same time that brain volume and cortical thickness decline.

The new findings can help solve this puzzle. The study also showed that while females have lower brain volume, proportionate to their smaller size, they have higher grey matter density than males, which could explain why their cognitive performance is comparable despite having lower brain volume.

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Thus, while adolescents lose brain volume, and females have lower brain volume than males, this is compensated for by increased density of grey matter.

In the study, the researchers evaluated 1,189 youth between the ages of 8 and 23 who completed magnetic resonance imaging as part of the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort, a community-based study of brain development.

The study includes rich neuroimaging and cognitive data, to look at age-related effects on multiple measures of regional grey matter, including gray matter volume, gray matter density, and cortical thickness.

Neuroimaging allowed the researchers to derive several measures of human brain structure in a noninvasive way.

Observing such measures during development allowed the researchers to study the brain at different ages to characterise how a child’s brain differs from an adult’s.

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The study may better explain the extent and intensity of changes in mental life and behavior that occur during the transition from childhood to young adulthood.

“If we are puzzled by the behavior of adolescents, it may help to know that they need to adjust to a brain that is changing in its size and composition at the same time that demands on performance and acceptable behavior keep scaling up,” Gur added. (IANS)

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Frequency of Brain Tumours Increase in Children With Common Genetic Syndrome

Applying the new criteria to MRI scans will help physicians identify probable tumours.

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Brain tumours may occur in children with common genetic syndrome
Brain tumours may occur in children with common genetic syndrome, Pixabya

Parents, please take note. The frequency of brain tumours has been underestimated in children with the common genetic syndrome — neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), a new study has found.

According to the researchers, this disorder is characterised by birthmarks on the skin and benign nerve tumours that develop in or on the skin. Brain tumours are also known to occur in children and adults with NF1.

They estimated that only 15-20 per cent of kids with NF1 develop brain tumours. But the study, published in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice, found that the frequency of brain tumours in this population was more than three times higher.

brain tumours can be confused with harmless bright spots, it has never been clear whether finding these abnormalities via MRI should be a cause for concern
Brain tumours can be confused with harmless bright spots, it has never been clear whether finding these abnormalities via MRI should be a cause for concern. Wikimedia Commons

“I’m not delivering the message anymore that brain tumours are rare in NF1. This study has changed how I decide which children need more surveillance and when to let the neuro-oncologists know that we may have a problem,” said senior author David H. Gutmann from the Washington University School of Medicine.

Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of children with NF1 characteristically show bright spots that are absent in the scans of unaffected children. Unlike tumours, they are generally thought to disappear in teenage years, the researchers said.

Since brain tumours can be confused with harmless bright spots, it has never been clear whether finding these abnormalities via MRI should be a cause for concern, they added.

Representation of a Brain Tumour. Flickr
Representation of a Brain Tumor. Flickr

For the study, the team developed a set of criteria to distinguish tumours from other bright spots. The researchers then analysed scans from 68 NF1 patients and 46 children without NF1 for comparison.

Also Read: Taking Care of Mental Health Problems in Children, may Boost Parent’s Mental Health Too 

All but four (94 per cent) of the children with NF1 had bright spots, and none of the children without NF1 did. Further, in 57 per cent of the children with bright spots, at least one of the spots was deemed likely to be a tumour, the research team found.

Applying the new criteria to MRI scans will help physicians identify probable tumours, but that does not mean that all children with NF1 should be scanned regularly, the researchers cautioned. (IANS)