Brain “imprints” provide an idea of ​​the mental health of young adolescents

Summary: Neuroimaging of a person’s unique brain activity may help predict mental health problems during adolescence, a new study reports.

Source: University of Sunny Beach

Medical imaging of a person’s unique brain signature – like a fingerprint – has the potential to predict mental health problems in young adolescents, according to the world’s first study by researchers at Sunshine Coast University.

In a study published in NeuroImageResearchers at the USC Thompson Institute tested the uniqueness of adolescents’ individual patterns of brain activity and whether changes in their brain networks were related to their mental health symptoms at different time points.

“We investigated whether there are unique patterns of neural activity in brain networks that could be associated with emerging anxious, confusing and frustrating feelings experienced by adolescents, especially those who may be vulnerable to mental health disorders,” he said. Mr. Shan, Head of the Neuroimaging Platform at the Thompson Institute.

Dr Shan, who was the lead author of the study, said the team characterized the development of various brain “functional networks” in young adolescents by brain scans performed every four months on a group of about 70 participants, starting at age 12. up to 15 years.

Each time scans were taken, participants also filled out questionnaires asking about their feelings over the past 30 days, especially their levels of depression and anxiety.

“The findings underscore the importance of longitudinal neuroimaging to monitor adolescent mental health – at a time when the brain is growing and changing dramatically in both structure and function – and its potential to detect change before abnormal behavior occurs,” he said. Dr. Shan.

“Given the nature of the onset of mental illness in young people, continuous measurement of psychological distress is more likely to reveal important links between neurobiological measures and mental illness.”

Mapping the changes in the brain when they occur

The data was collected as part of the Thompson Institute’s Longitudinal Adolescent Brain Study (LABS), a study designed to track changes in the brain during adolescence and gain a deeper understanding of the factors that affect adolescent mental health.

More than half of all mental health problems are diagnosed before the age of 14. In Australia, one in four young people aged 15 to 19 meets the criteria for a likely serious mental illness.

The “uniqueness” of a brain signature is determined by how similar the individual is to himself at other time points, and how similar they are to their peers (other participants).

Key insights into the differences and similarities of young minds

Like a fingerprint, each human brain has a unique signal profile between different regions of the brain, which becomes more individual and specialized with age.

“The brain works like a symphony orchestra, with activities from different areas of the brain synchronized into a melody to determine our thoughts and behaviors,” said Dr. Shan.

It was confirmed that there is a unique overall brain synchronization in 12-year-olds, with 92 percent of participants having their own functional connectors or unique brain “fingerprints”.

Further analysis of 13 individual brain networks found uniqueness in some networks up to the age of 12, while others were still maturing and settling.

Each time scans were taken, participants also filled out questionnaires asking about their feelings over the past 30 days, especially their levels of depression and anxiety. The image is in the public domain

Importantly, the brain network that controls individual “cognitive flexibility” and the ability to cope with negative influences, known as the “cingulo-opercular network” (or CON), has been found to have low levels of uniqueness.

“This suggests that it has not yet fully matured and thus provides a biological explanation for the increased vulnerability of young people,” said Dr. Shan.

“Combined with the existence of a high level of uniqueness throughout the brain, the results show that adolescents are able to engage these systems to regulate daily behavior. But they still don’t do it in a controlled, sustainable and reliable way. “

A key finding was that the uniqueness of CON was significantly and negatively associated with subsequent levels of psychological distress when assessed four months later.

“This link reflects the importance of CON for the mental health of adolescents. In future studies, we plan to find out whether this reflects the deterioration of existing experiences or whether lagging behind in the formation of a unique system causes an increase in psychological distress, “said Dr. Shan.

The networks that show the highest uniqueness are the “anterior parietal network”, which is responsible for the immediate processing of information, and the “default mode network”, which is important for internal cognitive processes, such as thinking about yourself or the future.

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For this news on the study of neuroscience

author: Press office
Source: University of Sunny Beach
contact: Press Service – Sunshine Coast University
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original research: Free access.
“Longitudinal study of the uniqueness of the functional connector and its relationship to psychological distress in adolescence” by Zack Y Shan et al. NeuroImage


Longitudinal study of the uniqueness of the functional connector and its relationship with psychological distress in adolescence

Each human brain has a unique pattern of functional synchronization (functional connector), analogous to a fingerprint, which is the basis of brain functions and related behaviors.

Here, we examine the maturation of the functional connector (whole brain and 13 networks), measuring its uniqueness in adolescents who have undergone a longitudinal brain scan from the age of 12 every four months.

The uniqueness of a functional connector is defined as its ratio of self-similarity (from the same subject at different times) to the maximum similarity with others (from a subject and all others at different times).

We found that the unique whole brain connector existed in 12-year-olds, with 92% of individuals having a value for uniqueness of the whole brain greater than one.

The violin-opercular network (CON; a long-term “brain control network” that configures information processing) demonstrates marginal uniqueness in early adolescence, with 56% of individuals showing uniqueness greater than one (ie, more similar). of her / his own CON four months later than those of all other subjects) and this has increased longitudinally.

In particular, the low uniqueness of CON correlates (b = -18.6, FDR-Q <<0.001) with K10 levels at the next time point. This association suggests that the individualization of the CON network is related to levels of psychological distress.

Our findings highlight the potential of longitudinal neuroimaging to capture mental health problems in young people who are subject to deep neuroplasticity and a period of environmental sensitivity.

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